Years ago for a birthday, I asked Jonah to cook my favorite dinner for me: a feast featuring roast chicken and blueberry pie. He'd carefully prepared the dishes, even leaving work early to have everything ready by the time I came home, but as I walked through the door of our New York apartment, I noticed that there was no chicken roasting or pie baking. He immediately explained: After getting everything prepped, he realized our oven wasn't preheating, and after a few attempts to fix it, had finally knocked on a neighbors door until he found one who let him use their oven. In other words, our chicken was roasting in Apt. 2B, three floors below.
I was shocked. Shocked! Genuinely amazed by his bravery to knock on a stranger's door, impressed by his casual response, "What else are neighbors for?" and convinced that we'd broken a New York apartment golden rule. Up until that point, our residential happiness had been predicated on the unspoken agreement to ignore and be ignored by everyone in the building, but Jonah had turned our walk-up into an episode of "Friends." The one where the oven doesn't work.
It took another few years before I broke the neighbor barrier, when I organized a text group for our building during Los Angeles' lockdown. The group was initially intended as a resource for grocery runs and emergencies, but soon turned into something so much sweeter with daily texts that offered comfort and humor in our micro-community and made me wish I'd introduced myself much earlier.
When Jonah and I moved to our new house, I knew I wanted to meet our neighbors: It just felt too strange to be facing homes, with no idea of who lived in them, and I knew they had to be curious too after the weekend we spent shimmying all of our belongings out of the U-Haul parked out front. After brainstorming COVID-safe options, I landed on freshly baked granola for the simple reason that it's easy to make in large batches, is a crowd-pleaser, and, unlike cookies, keeps for a month (in case anyone wanted to leave their batch in the entryway for a few days, for safety).
After baking and packing the granola the Sunday morning after we'd moved in, I added cards with a short note expressing how excited we are to join the neighborhood, with our cell numbers, then set out with our deliveries to the three houses across the street from us, the houses on either side, and a house with a yard that backs up into ours.
I'm not going to lie: Even as a fairly outgoing person, it felt nerve-wracking to drop off the granola! But I channeled my days selling Girl Scout cookies door to door, rang each doorbell (masked, of course), and quickly turned to stand a safe distance from their front door. Every single person was so kind and appreciative of the gesture that it made me wonder what I was so afraid of, and each imparted their own advice or fact about the neighborhood that made us feel even more welcomed to it.
P.S. When I asked on Instagram for thoughts on protocol—introduce yourself, or wait for your neighbors to introduce themselves?—I received about ten DMs from people telling me they generally wait but wanted to be the kind of person who introduces themselves. So consider this your opportunity to be that person! I promise, it's not nearly as scary as it feels, and you just might find yourself in need of a cup of sugar—or an oven—someday!