I love the French custom of having aperitifs. You know exactly what is expected of you - you turn up about 6.30pm, have a couple of drinks and a few nibbles and then you're on your way home again for dinner by about 8.00pm. Occasionally you get invited for an after dinner drink and again you know exactly what is expected of you - you turn up about 8.30pm, have a couple of glasses of wine and some cake, then a piece of fruit, then coffee and Calvados. This is usually over by 10.30pm but can go on a lot longer!
After our first Soirée (see previous blog!), we invited the two French couples we met there for an aperitif at our house the following Friday. We served a selection of nibbles and offered them a choice of red, white or rosé wine. They looked a little confused at the choice of wine but drank it happily and one couple then invited all of us to their house the following week. That's when we found out where we'd gone wrong! The nibbles were fine - fairly standard - but we now know you don't offer wine as an aperitif. The usual choices are Kir, pastis, whisky or port, although there are many others to choose from. We now have a very comprehensive drinks cupboard!
Friends invited us, as we thought, for an aperitif one evening so we decided to have lunch out so that we didn't have to bother cooking when we got home in the evening. We went to the local bar and had a lovely four course lunch with red wine for Gerry and cider for me (all for 11€ each!). Having slept that off during the afternoon, we duly turned up at 6.30pm for our aperitif. It was immediately obvious that we'd got it wrong and we had actually been invited for dinner - gulp! While Alise carried on cooking, Paul took us along to have a look at his allotment, where we met a friend of his who immediately invited us to his nearby house for an aperitif. He poured us huge measures of pastis and added a teaspoonful of water. Before we were halfway through those, he insisted on topping us up "to finish the bottle". Our lips were rapidly going numb and the legs weren't working too well either.
Then the phone rang - it was Alise to say that dinner was ready and would Yannau please send us home. So we threw the remaining pastis down our necks and wobbled back to Paul's house. Alise of course had set out some nibbles and was now ready to sit down for an aperitif with us. Next came a superb four course meal with copious amounts of wine, followed by coffee and generous glasses of Calvados. By midnight, Gerry and I could barely speak English, let alone French! We left our car there and stumbled home, with many a detour into the ditch.
The moral of this tale? We now double check exactly what it is we're being invited to - our livers couldn't take many days like that!