When we first moved to Mount Laurel, we didn’t know anyone.
We had bought a starter home… a beautiful townhouse in a brand new development by a scenic creek.
It was an area still very much under construction with most of the home sites yet to be built. It was an exciting but intimidating time of “newness” for my wife and me: brand new house (literally), new baby, new job, new neighborhood. But planting ourselves in a new area with no family and no friends was also a bit unnerving and unsettling. Until we met our neighbors.
Like us, they too had just moved in. And like us, they too were brand new parents. Our four town homes were all part of the same “block” of adjacent houses, which meant that we shared walls. But as fate would have it, we would end up sharing a lot more than just walls.
Mike was the first neighbor I met. We hit it off right away. I was excited to run in and tell my wife that there were other people just like us living just a few feet away. We continued to meet the rest of the neighbors, one by one, and we quickly realized, “hey, we may have actually picked a great place to live without knowing it!”
Serendipitously, we were all “brought” to this place – this little block of town homes – to live “together” bunched up in our little block. And we all digged that. It was pretty neat.
We took turns hosting each other on weekends. We kept watch over each other’s houses when away on vacation. We watched each others’ kids. It was the kind of neighborhood where you would step outside, smell the air to see who has the BBQ on, and just followed your nose to the jackpot where you’d always be greeted with genuine excitement.
Ethnically, we couldn’t be more diverse: Indians, Greeks, Italians, and Hispanics. So we got a nice experience of grilled lamb during the Greek Easter and delicious Samosas during Indian birthday celebrations. It was a great culinary melting pot.
Then, construction began across the street….More neighbors are coming! More neighbors are coming! My wife spotted a new family that could possibly fit in with the rest of our gang. So of course we bought a pie and crossed the street. She was right. They fit right in.
Eight years later, we moved. I don’t think I truly appreciated what we had until after we left. I had taken it for granted. I figured this was just what neighbors did in neighborhoods all over the country. Well, apparently that’s not the case, and it is more rare than I thought. And while we’ve done an ‘ok’ job at staying in touch, it’s understandably not the same.
We invited the old gang this past weekend for a mini reunion. Most were able to make it.
For dinner, I had picked up some nice angus-certified skirt steaks that were just perfect for the grill. I decided to make a classic Argentinian Churrasco with chimichurri sauce.
The origins of Churrasco go way back to the 17th Century to a small mission town founded by the Jesuits in what is the border between Argentina and Paraguay today. The residents of this town, the Guarani Indians, are often credited for forming an ideal society where community was valued. Cattle herders, noble and admired professionals of the time, would share their treasure and talent by placing thin strips meat over hot stones and gathering friends around an open fire. And thus began the Churrasco. How apropos….
Fast forward, say, four hundred years, to this past weekend and it’s basically the same story. I’m no cattle herder, but I did herd my friends around an open fire, and how astutely of me to have put some thin strips of meat on the grill for them. And thus began our Churrasco evening.
I marinated the meat overnight in my own chimichurri sauce (the Argentinian’s version of pesto. Italians use basil; Argentinians use parsley. To be fair, it’s not just a pseudo-pesto. The addition of vinegar does give it its own personality, and it’s uniquely delicious).
So a great Churrasco, a bottle and a half of Grey Goose, and some great neighbors is apparently an amazing recipe because we had an amazing time.
I attempted this again weeks later but using chicken instead: