We finally found a weekend to organise a little drinks do so we can meet a few more neighbours and invite the ones we already talk to.
It took a few weeks of chatting about it to realise what we’re suggesting is probably an ‘apero’ – which is a Thing in France.
We have been to one and I’m not sure it was a very traditional one. Possibly. But who knows. It was in the shared salon of the apartment block where our studio is. In New Zealand we’d have called it ‘bring a plate’ – but the plates would have been more of a dinner – this was nibbles. I decided to look online for some tips.
Oh dear god.
I read some more.
The nibbles must be fancy, everything said.
Where the staple for nibbles in NZ is asparagus rolls and maybe, if you’re feeling a bit whizzy, un upturned Philapelphia with sweet chilly sauce poured over. Both of which are nicer than you expect, if not pretty damn good. But however much Asparagus Rolls are ‘sure to please’ in NZ, I wasn’t feeling sure in France at all. Here the staple is apparently Taramasalata (can’t stand it. Won’t be serving it) and things on sticks. Very much not a lump of cheddar cheese, a piece of canned pineapple and a pickled onion on sticks (and old English fave), might I add. They do fancy, exotic things you can’t even recognise in a photograph. On sticks.
Fortified what nots
And one must serve the right drinks. Not beer. Unless you’re really rather modern, in which case a local, craft beer may be acceptable.
Various rules about the kind of wine and some stuff about the possibility of fortified what nots that I can’t be bothered to delve into.
Armed with this information – mostly images of fancy nibbles in my head and a muddle of wines, I go shopping. It soon becomes apparent that there’s lots of pre-made apero stuff available. But what’s ok to buy and what not? I think we took beer and chips’n’a dip to the Apero we went to. Oops. Though I did make that dip all by myself…. Anyway, I decide, easily enough, that anything processed looking in moulded plastic containers is a no. Aside from the fact that I try not to buy things in plastic, they just look a step too far processed and not made by me. But a long pie type thing that you slice up looks fine, as does tapenade, mini toasts, smoked salmon, seasoned olives and that sort of thing. I’ve probably got too much in the trolley, but it all looks yum and I’m feeling confident.
Did I mention that the day before our Apero I’m driving back to our mountain pad to pack up the remains of our things, then getting up before dawn for a tough trail run with friends. Then piling back to the new house (only a winding 21/2 hour drive with very sore legs) with, I hope, time to shower and change and make the nibbles while instructing the family on making sure the wash basins are clean and the glasses polished? Well, I am. The timing ain’t great but I have a trail running event in two weeks and this altitude run is too good an opportunity to miss. So…
I’m now in the wine aisles.
I know nothing about wine and there isn’t good cellphone reception in the supermarket to get Google.
Oh god, I’m the supermarket buying the wine. All the articles online told me to go to a place called ‘Nicolas’ and ask them to sell me what I need. Well, thankfully I don’t think we have one of those around here, because I suspect that might be out of my budget. Ask the person in the shop what you should buy? That’s like saying “Hello, I’m clueless, feel free to rip me off.” I’m just hoping country folk are a little bit… country. As in, not so posh. As in, won’t judge me for my wine. But who knows.
So we no doubt have the wrong wine, tho I’m not serving peanuts so I’m points up there!
And I bought some crisps (a somewhat on-the-fence food for Aperos, apparently) – I got the kind kids like, and the boring sort (which actually I really like) too – I’ll blame the children & their friends if I have to.
Well, perhaps this do of ours will weed out the toffs (what’s French for ‘toff’?) from the down-to-earth, and I know which are more likely to become our friends anyway.
And that also sorts out the topic of conversation, which everything I’ve read tells me one also has to be terribly careful about. No politics (shame, the Pres seems like a nice chap…) no gossip. I think we’ll talk about our Apero and how wrong it is. Perhaps we could hand everyone a little score card to leave in a box when they go home. By 6pm prompt, because we’re starting at 4pm. No, sorry, we’re starting at 16h and finishing at 18h. You have to do the 24-hour clock in France, which is double translation for me…. And 18h is before most aperos even start – that’s how shamelessly WRONG we are. I hope they do go home, our guests, because I’ve read that these things can go on for hours and turn into a nibbley dinner, on into the night. Imagine! Okay, I’m hiding the spare wine right now. Deep in the cellar where even the most determined French neighbour ain’t gonna find it.
Hang on. Isn’t this all about welcoming my new neighbours? And here I am already imagining warding them off with a smelly stick. Oh France, forgive me. Your perfectionist food and wine ways have me in a tizzle. I’ll get over it before Saturday, I promise.
Thanks for reading. I love our life in France and our adventures here. I hope they bring a few smiles your way too. Do come again. Before France we spent a few years being cold in England, and 10 years before that being mostly warm in the north of New Zealand. We’re an Engish-Kiwi-Swiss family happily (and sometimes miserably – like everyone) muddling through life in various places.