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French Ways To Eat for Pleasure and Good Health: Aperitif

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Frenchy Ways To Eat For Pleasure and Good Health: Apéritif


Oh, la, la!  Frenchy ways to eat for pleasure and good health…must include the French apéritif!  The apéritif or cocktail hour in France is a time-honored tradition of enjoying a drink and a pause before a meal in France.  The French apéritif  is a wonderful way to enjoy the meal to come, from simple to celebratory meals.  It is number 4 on the list of  Ways to Eat for Pleasure and Good Health.  So important is this apéritif time, or cocktail hour as we may know it, that perhaps it should have been ranked #1 on major cool ways to enjoy French pleasures!  The apéritif itself, with its sweeter wines, champagne, beer, pastis, or just with a “jus de fruit” (fruit juice) is a real treasured time and helps to move from the non-stop movement of the day to relaxation for the evening.  The apéritif is enjoyed with small finger foods or just a bowl of nuts.

The Apéritif as a Way to Eat for Pleasure and Good Health

The apéritif is one of my personal favorite aspects of French eating.  Why?  Because enjoying this cocktail (non alcoholic or alcoholic) before the meal actually helps me to sip and savor the menu in a relaxed and pleasurable state of mind.  Promoting pleasurable eating as a way to good health includes eating in this relaxed state.  Why not include the apéritif as a way to change your attitude before eating?  Imagine this:  bad day at work but you are invited to a good friend’s house for dinner.  You leave work feeling on edge and hungry too.  Arriving to your friend’s house you see the small cocktail table set up for the apero.  A couple different bottles of apéritif cocktails, some fruit juice, soda, a small bowl of nuts, a little plate of crackers seasoned with flavors.  Your friend says “Qu’est ce que je te sers comme apéritif?”  (What cocktail can I serve you for the apéritif?) You sit down, you feel your body starting to really let go.  Your friend hands you your apero, you enjoy it slowly nibbling some nuts.  You talk about your day with your friend.  Now you are really starting to feel good, life is ok again.  Time to eat dinner…no matter what will be served, one thing is sure… you feel relaxed, less stressed, ready to just enjoy the meal.  This is a great way to eat for pleasure and good health.  Le joie de vivre!!!

History of the Apéritif

These apéritif drinks have been enjoyed for centuries.  Some of the most famous “vin apéritif” include those currently exported out of France: Dubonnet, Lillet, Pernod, Pastis, Pineau de Charentes, Vermouth, Floc de Gascogne.  In fact, Dubonnet was developed in 1846 by the French chemist, Joseph Dubonnet as a malaria-fighting drink for the French foreign legion soldiers in North Africa.  This Dubonnet wine apértif contained herbs and spices to help mask some of the strong malaria “medicine” quinine and was distributed to the French soldiers to protect them against malaria.  Madame Dubonnet enjoyed this drink; so did her girlfriends, and thus this drink became popularized.  Oh la la…the French way of fighting diseases with food and drink!  Actually the history of apéritif wines and liqueurs are wide and long.  For more information, see a more complete article on this long history of French cocktails.

Ideas of Non Alcoholic Apéritif drinks and Ways To Enjoy

Just because you are enjoying an apéritif doesn’t mean it must be alcoholic.  In fact, the Frenchys are drinking less and less alcohol these days, primarily because of stricter alcohol and driving enforcement.  This cocktail hour is a time period, even a short pause to transition to relaxation and pleasure eating.  We can also stimulate the palate with non alcoholic drinks.  A Perrier or any sparkling water.  Tomato juice?  Yum… or any fruit juice.  A non alcoholic wine or beer.  A glass of water with a twist of lemon.  There are many possibilities, what are yours?  The point is, enjoy your food and use the apéritif time as a zen pause.  A time to chat with close friends, your partner, your family.  Whether at home, at the restaurant, in a cafe on the way home from work…It is really a privileged moment!  ENJOY and Bon Appetit!!

If you would like to start your own “apéritif sessions” check out this book on French apéritif.  Let me know how it goes, you may become a regular “apéritifer.”

Aperitif: Recipes for Simple Pleasures in the French Style

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17 Responses to French Ways To Eat for Pleasure and Good Health: Aperitif

  1. Greg February 7, 2011 at 17:08 #

    PS- the big push here is for fiber and protein at breakfast – (eggs, cottage cheese, yogurt, smoothies with protein powder,fiber rich bread, they are putting fiber in everything!!)we americans tend to eat “prescriptively” or the latest “power food” fad or on the go or not at all!

  2. Greg February 7, 2011 at 16:31 #

    I think a post on chocolate would be good too- especially with valentines day coming up.
    As the snow drifts by my window, I dream of France and green patures – I know I am a bit of a romantic but… what is wrong with that?
    I would love to take a cooking class taught by you and I hope to visit the french countryside one day before I have to do it in a wheelchair!
    For now, I pretend I am there when I read your blog or stand facing the rolling hills on my land – feeding the goats, chickens or walking with my two best friends, my dogs.
    Take care.

    • mbrighton February 8, 2011 at 10:07 #

      Hi Greg, didn’t realize you love France so much! Animals are such an important part of our lives, it is nice that your 2 best friends are your dogs. We have guinea pigs here….Funny you mentioned cooking classes…you never know-thought about opening a cooking class over here for tourists; both French food and my real passion: Italian food. You never know..will let everyone know if it happens! and really Greg, you should make a trip overseas a reality….life is too short. Have a great day !

  3. Greg February 7, 2011 at 01:11 #

    Great idea- and I get to feel so sophisticated!
    I assume one drink (2 for men?) and usually over ice. The ones in the post I think I can get in the USA – some cheese, crackers and perhaps some nuts toasted in the oven with fresh rosemary and a touch of sea salt – no?

    • mbrighton February 7, 2011 at 15:14 #

      Hi Greg, you are sophisticated 🙂 Just a note on the aperitif food…if you were to do a big set of snacks (I would classify cheese as big) then you are starting an ” Aperitif Dinatoire” which means a longer aperitif with more rich foods (even small slices of pizza, or brushetta, blinis with smoked salmon & creme fraiche, vegetables and dip, bacon wrapped prunes-you get the picture). This aperitif dinatoire is really like dinner, in fact, it is a replacement for dinner. There is a movement in France towards more aperitifs like this because you can invite people more often (less formal and expensive than a real dinner) and also it tends to be more relaxed. You gave me a great idea to do an article on “Aperitif Dinatoire”. The American large assortment of cocktail hour snacks have an influence on this French movement. So, in conclusion, if you just did the nuts for aperitif you would be fine. Adding the cheese and crackers will probably mess up your appetite for your dinner (normally). Also if you were invited to a French person’s home for dinner, you would normally only see cheese after the meal, not during the aperitif (unless of course as I said it is an aperitif dinatoire). Just a cultural difference. And normally the aperitif is a small glass of whatever to drink, sipped slowly. But again, it depends on the environment and the mood of those enjoying it! It is Monday, tough to get back into the workweek, so you have the right to an aperitif ce soir (tonight). haha.

    • Greg February 7, 2011 at 15:34 #

      An “aperitif dinatoire” article would be great. I like the idea of having people over – it can get to be a long winter in the country without some get togethers- but often a “dinner” seems overwhelming to me. So, this “dinatoire” is perfect. I need to look for some of those drinks… will check this week. I think the whole “cocktail hour” might work well for me, after rushing home, a small drink and some nuts would keep me from heading for a bag of chips while I make dinner.

      What about a post on the french breakfast? Maybe you already covered that… love your posts and hope all is well. Still say you have a book forming here :-)Be well.

    • mbrighton February 7, 2011 at 16:11 #

      Hi Greg ! You are so enthusiatic, thanks for your encouragement too!
      Will do an article on aperitif dinatoire…promise

      For French breakfasts…not much to report. It is either cup of coffee with slice of bread, butter and jelly or something else light like that.
      However, the French adore the American brunch theme for the weekends, when possible. (Those French that have traveled and experienced big breakfasts in other countries such as the UK and USA.)

      Will something on that subject too…Keeping lists going for the articles to come!

      Be well too…


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