I cannot fully explain my fascination with and love of France and all things French as they started at an early age before I had even experienced the place or its people for myself. However, having now lived, worked and holidayed in France I can easily list countless things that I adore about the country that range from art and culture through to supermarket products, language and social nuances. But one of the things that grabs me the most is the very real and obvious connection that is made between food and community.
Eating is more often than not a social occasion, regardless of the time of day or the number of people involved. It is mostly prepared with thought and care, using very often simple but good ingredients. There is a rigour and passion applied and whilst they might be unspoken they are entirely understood. The effortless effort that seems to flow with food preparation means that meals are so special and have meaning, even if they are small or made on a frugal budget. Food has a real importance placed upon it, a respect shown for it and the time to prepare and enjoy it.
There is a ritual-like approach to meals, especially celebratory ones. But even just on a regular weekend a family would still make a conscious effort and prepare an apéritif or 'apéro' as it is fondly shortened to before sitting down to eat the main meal together. Whilst here in Britain and Ireland we have a sense of the word 'apéritif', it is not a term that is widely used outside of restaurants and mostly only refers to a pre-dinner drink. However, in France it means so much more.
Traditionally an apéritif is an alcoholic drink taken before a meal to whet the appetite but the cultural sentiment of it is almost completely social, interactive and to me the best part of the meal. It's fun and informal; a chance to chat with friends over delicious drinks and tasty morsels. It can be very simple or excitingly experimental. If you really go to town on it you may not even need to move on to a main course!
I want to spread the word and introduce French-style apéro time to our dining and social experiences. On Saturday 12th November The Woman Next Door will be collaborating with Ursa Minor Bakehouse to present an evening of French feasting with apéro and petits plats (little dishes). Spaces will be extremely limited so booking will be essential! Contact me or Ursa Minor Bakehouse for more information.