My neighbor keeps sharing homemade food I don’t want

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a homemaker in my 30s, and I’m having problems with a neighbor who often shares some of his homemade food with me.

My other neighbors have limited their food sharing and souvenirs to prepackaged items because of the coronavirus, but my neighbor, who is in his 50s, shares food that he has made. I’m not sure how he prepares the food, but to be honest, I’m not pleased about receiving it considering we are in the middle of a pandemic.

We have a box outside of our house for parcels. In the middle of summer, he had left a simmered dish in the box when no one was home. It had no lid or plastic wrap to cover it.

If only he would ask me in advance, I could find a way to politely decline. But he will often bring over food without ever considering if I would even want it. I end up discreetly throwing away his food while apologizing to him in my mind.

My neighbor says that he is very particular about what ingredients he uses. However, his family doesn’t seem to eat much of his cooking. He says the main reason he cooks is to share with his neighbors, but I think his family should just eat it themselves.

Is there a way I can stop accepting his food without offending him?

— S, Kanagawa Prefecture

Dear Ms. S:

I want to believe this neighbor doesn’t have an ulterior motive and he just wants to share his food with everyone. That being said, leaving food without a lid in the middle of summer goes beyond coronavirus concerns. It is a sanitation issue. I think this shows that he lacks basic common sense.

I think you sense the same thing, so you are looking for a way to politely refuse his food without upsetting him. However, by refusing his handouts, you not only have to worry about offending him. It could escalate into a feud between neighbors.

No matter how you try to explain your reasoning, I suspect he will still think, “I’m doing such a nice thing for her, and instead of being grateful, she just rejects my gesture now after all this time!” I think his anger wouldn’t go away anytime soon.

Hmmm … There is no way to refuse his food without causing further problems. Your only option is to just accept what he gives you and then discreetly throw it away.

I know it must feel like you’re insulting your neighbor and that you’re committing a sin by throwing away food, but I think this is the only way to keep the peace with him. In other words, I think when you’re throwing away his food, you should also purge yourself of your apologetic feelings.

This is what you have been doing, and I think it is the best way forward to make sure no one gets hurt.

— Soichiro Nomura, psychiatrist