So You've Decided to Invite Your Neighbors for Dinner 09.12.2013

My neighbor Mila at a recent gathering with the most insanely large
empanada I have ever seen.  It was delicious.

You know that awesome feeling when you have fun neighbors you can invite to your home and break bread and drink and talk endlessly?  Well, consider yourself lucky because that does not happen a lot.  

Eric and I have lived in our neighborhood for 10 years and we've been friendly with a few neighbors.  It wasn't until a year ago or so that things meshed and we started socializing (a lot) and breaking bread (a lot) with many neighbors.  I have no idea why it took so long to get there, but I'm guessing it's not that unusual.  I've heard of people never speaking to any of their neighbors and now that I'm speaking regularly to most of mine, I don't want to be in the opposite situation.

So, whether you've lived in your neighborhood for years or for a short time, entertaining them is easy.  It does, however, involve a few elements that have to be perfectly aligned.  Did I just put so much pressure on you?  Sorry about that, but it's true.  Here is what you'll need for a super-fun time:

1.  Delicious food (important)
2.  Easy-to-get-along-with neighbors (imperative)
3.  Happy kids (optional)
4.  Adult beverages (essential)

It looks simple, doesn't it?  It can be, but again, all the elements must be aligned.  If someone brings a dish that includes peanuts and someone has a severe peanut allergy, that party's gone to shit.  It only takes one little thing to make a party tank.  So, to help you, dear readers, I made up collected questions about tricky neighbor situations that you might have and answered them.

I feel weird about inviting some new neighbors into our already pretty tight circle of neighborhood friends and dinner companions.  Am I being rude?

Oh yes, you are.  Look, you do not have to become super best friends with the new neighbors.  And who knows if the new neighbors will even like you?  My advice is to grab a cup of coffee with them, or just invite them over -- one on one, and then expand the circle if the chemistry feels right.  There are already too many horror stories of neighbors not talking to each other -- it's going to be end of us.  I urge you to stop the madness.  Also, wouldn't you hate moving into a new neighborhood and no one welcomed you?

I've moved into a new neighborhood and would like to get to know the neighbors better.  Do you think it would be weird if I have a pot luck?  I mean, it's not like I can ask them to host a party to welcome me.

Again, I'd start small, but I'm not going to entirely discourage you from doing this.  If you happen to be on the sidewalk/in the hallway with several neighbors at once and it's decided that there should be a welcome for the new neighbor, that's one thing.  But my inclination is:  if you're talking to someone, say (without sounding like a stalker), "Hey...want to grab a drink tomorrow?"  

I love having my neighbors over but one family in particular has kids who leave my house a complete mess.  The parents don't encourage them to clean up.  What can I do?

Oh, you need to wrest control of this situation.  Before all the kids start playing, announce (within earshot of the parents):  "Kids, the rule in this house is that we clean up whatever we take out and play with -- does everyone understand?  Any questions?"  And if you see any kids leaving one activity to go to another, don't be shy to say (to that kid or to everyone), "Hey guys ... just remember to put away toys before you play with other toys."  Or some such thing.

Now, having said all that, there are some families who do not require ongoing or any clean up, and that's okay.  But if you do, you have to lay down the law, otherwise, expect to be disappointed.

There is one couple that always brings over bland food and I feel bad putting salt on it, but I don't know what else to do.  And not trying the food is not an option because it's a dinner club.  Any ideas about how I could handle this?

This is a problem I deal with more often than I would like.  You have no choice but to add salt, otherwise you will suffer.  Bland food is for when you are really, really sick or if you have gastro issues.  Unless you are really really sick or have gastro issues, add some salt.  

Use "theme nights" as another tactic.  For example, say it's "Indian Night!" where everyone brings over an Indian dish.  You're at least covered on the flavor.  Unless you leave out all the spices, it's tough to serve up bland Indian food.

When you invite neighbors over, is it okay to accept their help in cleaning up after?

I'll be honest with you, I go back and forth on this one.  It really depends on the situation, the relationships, etc.  I really love it when friends help cleanup, but I do not expect it.  And I think that's the key:  it should not be an expectation.

I think one neighbor is having an affair with another neighbor two streets over.  What should I do?

Wrong blog.  Move along.

Have questions about food, drink, entertaining, or awkward social situations?  Send them along to  I'll get around to answering them eventually.


  1. Can you discuss what to do if your neighbors are weirdos and decorate w/ bunny decals? But, yet, your chidlren are the same age and like to play together . ..

    1. Dear Anonymous -- What a horrid situation! But here's the thing: the kids are happy -- right? That's hard to mess with. You could leave a mysterious note for the neighbors explaining that you find their decor offensive, or make up a flier for a company that removes decals. That would get the message across. This situation must be handled in the most passive-agressive way possible; direct confrontation stands to ruin future play dates and you cannot have that.