Love Your Neighbor, No Matter What
Made a bundt cake yesterday for my new neighbors and it was not bad. A lovely couple, they seem, and they live three doors down. I saw the moving truck there on Wednesday, a good month after the Seversons moved out, and figured I’d go say hello. Which I did, and their names are Charlene and Bill. Very dear people, right off the bat, and it’s wonderful to welcome new neighbors. The Seversons were a bit of a mystery; they lived here only a year and kept to themselves, so it’s nice to welcome people who not only plan to stay a while, but ask a lot of questions and suggest a cookout next week and part with a big ol’ hug.
Good neighbors are a blessing, for a thousand small reasons. All the way from borrowing sugar or vanilla to keeping an eye on the house while you’re on vacation to keeping the dog for a few hours so you can be away in peace. They have ladders to borrow, my neighbors, and recipes and fresh bread and delicious hand-squeezed lemonade to share. They help out when one of us is sick and can’t shovel the drive, and they let us know if someone unfamiliar is around, or the porch light is out, and they can always be counted on to host a great dinner party out on the patio or deck, or even inside, where we have learned who allows shoes on and who prefers shoes off.
I’ve rarely had a neighbor who was anything but kind, but I have to say that Eleanor Husby was a sourpuss at best. She lived in the neighborhood only a year, across the street and two houses down. Nothing was just right as Eleanor saw it. The construction workers painting the road were rude and inconsiderate; the postman delivered the mail far too late; and the people in the house next to her stayed up far too late and made too much noise, as Eleanor saw it. But what does one expect? Those neighbors have three adolescent children, and OF COURSE there will be noise. Happy children are like that, and how could she complain?
I think what it all boiled down to was that Eleanor was lonely. Her husband left the year she moved in, and he was ‘bout all she talked about. Thing is, everyone is broken somehow, and everyone has a story, and the theme of Eleanor’s was that nothing ever was right. I don’t know where she is now, but when I learned she was moving to an apartment in the city, I took her some homemade popovers and a seafood lasagna, and Eleanor lamented about how hard it is to move but she couldn’t stand her the neighborhood. We talked about how many times we’ve each moved, and she softened a bit, and said she was hoping this move would be the last, and perhaps we might stay in touch.
We hugged a long hug, and that was the last I saw of her. I wrote to her at her new address, but no reply, and the lesson I’ve learned from Eleanor is three-fold: Love your neighbor, no matter what; some people are just unhappy and you can’t do a darn thing about it; and a pan of seafood lasagna and some warm popovers can go a long way on a cool spring day.
Here’s one for the neighbor next door. Meyer lemons are best, but any lemon will do, and make sure you deliver it warm. Homemade food is best that way.
Peg’s Meyer Lemon Bundt Cake with Vanilla Bean Icing
Nonstick baking spray
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup unsalted butter
1 tsp salt
4 large eggs
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
3 cups flour
Grated zest of 3 Meyer lemons
2 T Meyer lemon juice
1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice
2 T granulated sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
3 T heavy cream, plus additional if needed
1 tsp vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract if that’s what you’ve got)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 10-cup bundt pan throughly with baking spray.
Beat sugar, butter and salt until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add baking powder and vanilla; mix well to combine. In liquid measuring cup, stir together milk and cream. Gradually add flour, and milk mixture, alternately, starting and ending with flour. Mix until smooth. Stir in lemon zest and juice.
Pour batter into prepared pan, smoothing top with spatula. Transfer to oven and bake 60 to 70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Meanwhile, make Glaze: Stir together lemon juice and sugar.
Remove cake from oven; transfer pan to wire rack for 5 minutes. Turn cake out onto rack. Poke hot cake all over with toothpick, and brush glaze over cake; let cake cool completely.
Just before serving, make the icing: In small bowl, whisk together all ingredients. If icing is too thick to pour, whisk in additional cream 1 T at a time until pourable, but not too thin. Pour over cake and serve.
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