So it comes as a surprise that now, far removed from schoolhouse days, you find yourself keeping up with the Joneses. Or, more to the point, not keeping up.
Trowel in hand, you gaze across the fence and are met with industry. The Joneses, big and little, are busy building bunkers. Raised beds, explains Mrs. Jones. Suddenly, your dirt-level dirt looks so low.
Mrs. Jones takes delivery of a truckload of fancy soil. Now your dirt-level dirt looks dirty. Mr. Jones hauls in potted persimmon, masses of marigolds, flats of strawberry seedlings.
You drive to the nursery and choose strawberries. Back home you dig them into the dirty dirt-level dirt. You wonder if that droopy look is how plants share their feelings.
Later, you lean over the fence, neighbor-style. You point with pride to your strawberries, all six. Mrs. Jones offers a tolerant smile. She's already put in 75. Twice.
You sigh. You note that feral cilantro and mint have sprung up in the herb plot, in the flower plot and in the sidewalk. You claim no credit for such weedy excess. But you are willing to share.
Freethinking mint/cilantro/ shrimp wraps
Prep: 30 minutes
Grill: 6 minutes
Makes: 8 small wraps, serves 4
1 cup mayonnaise
2 cloves garlic, degermed and finely chopped
2 tablespoons lime juice
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup red pepper matchsticks
1 cup cucumber matchsticks
¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup finely chopped fresh mint
Iceberg or Bibb lettuce
Whisk together mayo, garlic, lime juice, salt and chipotle pepper. Scrape half into a small bowl, cover and chill.
Thread shrimp onto 4 skewers (if you're using wooden skewers, first soak them in water for 10 minutes). Brush shrimp all over with remaining spicy mayo. Cover and chill.
In a large bowl, toss together red pepper, cucumber, cilantro and mint. Dress with about ¼ cup chilled spicy mayo; toss with a fork.
Choose 8 sturdy lettuce leaves. Set 2 on each of 4 plates. Scoop vegetable mixture onto each lettuce leaf.
Build (or spark) a hot fire. Grill shrimp until pink, curled and just cooked through, about 3 minutes per side.
Use a fork to slide shrimp off skewers and onto vegetables. Let each guest roll up lettuce, burrito-style, into a fresh and tasty wrap. Serve with additional spicy mayo, if you like.
Leah Eskin is a Tribune Newspapers special contributor. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.