The aperitif as a ritual
In France, when we receive guests, we first serve a glass of port or a glass of wine with appetizers to nibble on! This is the apéritif! It's a much-appreciated ritual before sitting down to dinner. But it's also possible to extend an invitation just for the aperitif. It's more informal and simpler than preparing a real meal. These aperitifs sometimes go on for hours, as in the summer when everyone's on vacation. In short, the aperitif is an essential part of the French way of life.
L'apéro - Karambolage - ARTE
What is a french aperitif?
Do you have a moment? Because Hayo Kruze is now inviting us to share a most enjoyable French ritual. But take a look:
When a Frenchman invites you to dinner, it is unthinkable that he does not serve you a little drink and a little snack before you sit down at the table. This obligatory passage, this immutable rite, is the aperitif or simply the apero
He will probably offer you port, martini, whisky, a beer or a fruit juice or even the famous "kir", a mixture of white wine and crème de cassis named after its inventor, Canon Kir. Canon Kir was a member of parliament for a region producing crème de cassis and, in the 1950s, he developed this beverage which is still very much in fashion.
On the coffee table, there are normally peanuts, olives and crisps or some of those aperitif cakes that line entire shelves in French supermarkets. That's the minimum. More chic hosts will offer you champagne, salmon rillettes or foie gras canapés, but the principle remains the same: you break the ice while "opening", from the Latin "aperire", "to open", your appetite. In a way, these are the preliminaries to that act that the French are madly in love with: eating together.
In France, the aperitif is therefore a festive rite and a powerful stimulant of conviviality. Don't forget to toast before raising your glass to your lips. You can choose between "tchin tchin", "à la vôtre", "à la tienne" or more prosaically "santé" - health. As long as you look each other in the eye, anything goes.
A festive ritual dating back to the Romans
Although the Romans seem to have introduced the use of aperitifs (they used wine sweetened with honey), it was in the Middle Ages that the practice became widespread. Doctors recommended a glass of slightly bitter wine, cut with beneficial herbs such as aniseed, cinchona, gentian, sage, vermouth or centaur. It was sometimes made according to jealously guarded family recipes passed down from generation to generation.
A very serious recent study claims that 9 out of 10 French people take an aperitif at least once a week. But it seems that some people do it at least once a day. We can also be invited just for the aperitif: in the countryside, by the neighbours, for example. Then you shouldn't stay too long. You're supposed to have a drink or two, but then you go home.
The aperitif: the art of entertaining without cooking
The aperitif is a simple way to entertain at home without having to spend hours in the kitchen. More and more often, the aperitif goes on forever and turns into a sort of meal à la bonne franquette.
The best aperitif for the French is of course the one during the summer holidays. It's true that you can have an aperitif all year round, but often you don't have the time; whereas during the holidays, you have it on the beach, in the village square, on the terrace, in front of the tent, and the children are happy because there are sausage slices and aperitif cakes that they gorge themselves on, and they are allowed to stay with the adults. These aperitifs can last for hours and hours. I can't wait for the holidays!