“I wonder what squash tastes like?”
It wasn’t the deepest thought Miranda has ever had in her thirty-two years of living, but it was one that brought delicious changes to not only her life, but to the lives of her neighbours as well.
“And how do you even cook it? ” she asked no one in particular, on account of her being all alone in her house. “Or do you cook it? Maybe it’s something that’s served as is. It doesn’t look like something that can stand up on its own. I should look that up.”
So she did, and found a ton of ways to prepare squash. The one that stood out to her the most was a recipe for squash couscous. All sorts of cool things go into that: nutmeg, cinnamon, chickpeas, almonds, cayenne…and that’s only a partial list.
“It would be a shame to make such a fancy dish just for myself. I should invite someone over, but whom?” she then said. “I know! My next door neighbours, Mr. and Mrs. Whositswhatsit!”
Miranda’s neighbours weren’t actually called Mr. and Mrs. Whositswhatsit. She just nicknamed the couple that because after a full year of living at her current house, Miranda still didn’t know a thing about them, or any of her neighbours for that matter. She had noticed an elderly couple on the other side of the Whositswhatsits, and there was a single guy on the other side of her, and directly across the street was a middle-aged lady who never seemed to have any visitors.
“I should invite them all and finally get to know them. Who doesn’t love a dinner party?!”
The handwritten invitations were then personally placed into each and every mailbox. At first, Miranda’s neighbours weren’t sure what to think of the unexpected invite, but then one by one they all liked the thought of someone else doing the shopping, the cooking and the cleaning up, so everyone accepted and knocked upon her door the following Friday.
“I hope everyone loves Moroccan!” Miranda said after everyone had arrived. “I have no idea if I do, but it’s fun to try something new every now and then, don’t you think?”
Shortly thereafter the dishes came out: spiced beef and lamb, roasted pepper salad, chicken tangine, squash couscous, and a honey-drenched phyllo coil. She had Canadian Living Magazine to thank for that menu, and her grandmother for passing down her cooking skills.
By watching the speed by which the ate, Miranda quickly learned who in fact liked Moroccan food – the Whositswhatsits (real names: Tom and Leanne Greer; he an engineer and she an emergency room nurse); who didn’t: the elderly couple (Mr. and Mrs. Paulson), as they had grown up on overly boiled British food, and who was up for anything so long as they didn’t have to cook it: Steve, the man who lived directly next to her and Lois, the loner neighbour who secretly wished that more people would invite her to dinner. She also learned who had atrocious table manners, who might like to actually visit Morocco one day, and who was raised by their mommas to at least offer to help with the clean up.
“We should do something like this more often,” Leanne said. “Tom and I could host the next one.”
“We could?” asked a surprised Tom.
“Sure. We could come up with our own exotic menu. Maybe something Japanese-inspired.”
“I’m Russian on my mother’s side of the family,” Steve said. “I could host a Russian-themed dinner one night.”
Everyone agreed that Russian-themed, Japanese-inspired, and other worldly dinners were in order. Every other month from then on, the neighbour took turns hosting dinner.
“People should take the time to get to know their neighbours,” Miranda now often says. “You never know who you’ll meet, or whether or not squash couscous is worth serving again.”
Spoiler alert: it totally is. .