The art of the French apéro
My brother was passing through Paris recently on his way back from a business trip and we arranged to meet for dinner. As I live only a ten minute bus journey from Gare du Nord and the Eurostar terminus (where he was catching a train from at 9.15 pm), I invited him round to my place for an apéro so that he could see my new flat.
Oh how I casually threw those words into an email without even considering their significance. “Fancy popping round to mine for a quick apéro before we go out to eat?” I breezily typed, clearly completely carried away with my new ‘grown up’ lifestyle.
Lesson one: owning a washing machine does not a grown-up make.
“Sure, sounds good” he replied, apparently convinced and perhaps even impressed by my newfound mature, sophisticated vie Parisienne.
As the day of ‘The Apéro‘ drew nearer I started to think to myself, “what is an apéro?”. I had heard the word used several times but what does it actually mean? Is it a particular type of drink? Are nibbles required? Does it take place at a particular time? Are there special clothes I should wear?
Panic started to set in. Or rather, it would have if it were anyone else other than my brother coming round. As it was, a mild curiosity set in as I comforted myself with the fact that I still had an unfinished three euro bottle of red wine that we could drink if I didn’t get round to organising myself and figuring out what an apéro was.
Still, it would be good to practice an apéro on my brother in anticipation of the time when someone important might be coming round. So, on a quiet afternoon at work I turned to that faithful friend and answer of all queries: Google.
Some ten minutes later and my sophistication knowledge level had gone up an extra notch. According to internet sources, an apéritif is served before a meal to stimulate the appetite. The word is French and is derived from the Latin verb aperire, which means ‘to open’.
Several countries in Europe have their own way of enjoying an apéritif. The Spanish plump for dry sherry, the Greeks a gulp of ouzo, the Italians a Campari, and the French? Well, what else but champagne?
Champagne and snacks. So that’s what was required of me to pull of a successful apéro. Clicking back onto Facebook – er, I mean the spreadsheet I was updating – I relaxed. Some fizzy wine and a tub of Pringles? An apéro would be a doddle.
Or not. I didn’t even manage a packet of crisps. Instead, I reached for the cheap corner shop bottle of wine that had been sitting on my counter for a week and poured us both a glass into old Nutella jars. He’s my brother, as if I’m going to make an effort for him!
Grimacing as we painfully swallowed the cheap booze, I vaguely apologised for the rather poor version of the apéro. But after all, I do now own a washing machine… Surely it’s one step at a time?
1. Apéritif, by Green Point of View on Flickr
2. Last apéritif, by Agelocesare on Flickr
3. Apéro, via Pinterest
4. Red wine in nutella jars, by Beth Peters