A new neighbor moved in across the hall from me this week. New neighbors are wonderful because when you introduce yourself to them, you can create an entirely original and more impressive personality for yourself – free of all bad habits, unhealthy addictions and the weight of your life’s crushing disappointments – the same way you do when you’re on a first date, or appearing on a game show.
The name of my new neighbor is Rhonda. When Rhonda asked me what I did for a living, I mentally spun through my regular collection of “neighbor lies,” and found them all completely worn out. So I went full improv and told her I used to be a seal trainer but now worked as a personal chef for John Stamos, who only popped into my head because earlier in the day I’d been scrolling through an article entitled “Ten Hottest Actors in Their Forties” to make sure I still looked younger than all of them.
Normally when you’re lying it’s important not to get too creative in case you’re confronted with sudden follow-up questions you aren’t prepared to answer. But it’s different with neighbors. If Rhonda had thrown me a curve ball about the mating habits of the Hawaiian Monk Seal or whether Dave Coulier was also loveable and kooky in real life, I could have easily rolled out, “Uh oh, I smell something burning!” or “Is that my alarm clock?” and dashed through my front door. Really, since neighbors are ready to accept just about anything from one another if it means they can make an early escape from small talk, I could have gone completely out to left field and just said, “I’ve got to go adjust my grow lamps,” or “I think I left my cat trapped in the shower!” and Rhonda probably still wouldn’t have touched it.
Then Rhonda informed me she was a mental health therapist. She also told me not to worry if I saw unfamiliar faces around, since she met with patients out of her home.
It probably should have alarmed me that needing to present an entirely fictitious version of myself to Rhonda only five minutes into knowing her pointed to some severe emotional problems. But it didn’t. I was too busy being delighted in the knowledge that if I tiptoed out into the hallway and listened at her door, I could get sessions for free!
And anyway, I’ll make up for the dishonesty by bringing Rhonda lots and lots of food. I’ll even have more money to step up the ingredients now that I’m going to be able to fire my own therapist. I was getting tired of pretending I was a contributing writer to Vanity Fair anyway.
Chickpea Potpie with Cornbread Crust
Found at Eats Well With Others
Serves 4-5, adapted from Big Bowl of Love
- 2 cups chopped sweet potatoes
- 1/2 cup chopped carrots
- 1 cup cubed cooked chicken (I added this to the original recipe)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1/4 cup AP flour
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 2 cups cooked chickpeas
- 1/2 cup frozen baby peas
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- cracked pepper
- dash of Tabasco sauce
- 3/4 cup cornmeal
- 3/4 cup AP flour
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 tbsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup almond milk or lowfat milk
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large egg yolk, slightly beaten
Preheat the oven to 400 °F
Boil the potatoes and carrots until tender but not soft and set aside.
Spray a 2-quart casserole with cooking spray.
For the filling, heat a large saucepan until hot. Add the oil and onions. Saute onions until they are soft, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle in the 1/4 cup flour and mix. Slowly pour in the vegetable stock whisking well with a wire whisk. Still using the whisk, cook the mixture over medium heat until thickened and bubbly, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chickpeas, peas, cooked potatoes and carrots, salt, pepper to taste, and Tabasco. Cook on medium heat until the mixture is heated through, about 2 to 3 minutes. turn into the prepared casserole dish, spreading evenly.
For the crust, in a bowl combine the cornmeal, 3/4 cup flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. In a small bowl, combine the milk, oil and egg yolk. Add to the dry ingredients and mix until uniform but a bit lumpy. Spoon the batter evenly over the filling.
Bake until the top is golden brown, about 22 to 25 minutes.