Reason number two hundred and forty-seven to be friends with your next-door neighbors: they cook, and they share.
When Stéphan (one door to the right) prepares scampi in coconut milk, he will prepare a plate for you and hand it over through your respective kitchen windows, a.k.a. the service hatch. In return you will send two flutes of rosé champagne their way, because you just happened to be celebrating something.
And when Peter (one door to the left) takes a trip back to his native Italy to celebrate Christmas with his family, he will ring your doorbell just before leaving, to return the ice-pack his girlfriend Ligiana had borrowed for her sprained ankle, and to give you a freshly baked loaf of pandolce, still a little warm, golden and crusty.
Pandolce, also called pan di Natale, is a typical Christmas confection from Genoa. Although references I’ve found describe it as a sweet yeast bread, just a bit denser than panettone, Peter’s version is more cakey than yeasty, a texture reminiscent of biscotti, but moister. Chock-full of plump raisins and crunchy pinenuts, it is aromatic and elegantly sweet, the perfect companion to a cup of coffee.
When Peter returns I will ask for a recipe and permission to share it with you, but I’ve read that it is a jealously guarded secret in most families — I’ll do my persuasive best.
In the meantime, let me wish you a Merry Christmas if you celebrate it, and a Happy Holiday-of-Your-Choice if you celebrate something else! In all cases, I hope you eat well in great company, and that you get more than your share of cool gifts and good memories.