The French call it apéritif, the Italians call it aperitivo. Whatever it’s called, I’m a huge fan and I ‘m always on board!
Derived from the Latin verb, apirire, it literally means to *open the palate*. It refers to the hour or two before dinner, where you can enjoy a small nosh or nibble of finger food, with alcohol, prior to the big meal.
On occassion, depending what is on offer, apéritif can replace the large meal. Like in the heat of summer, when just the thought of cooking a big meal in my postage-stamp size kitchen, makes beads of sweat appear upon my forehead.
Today happened to be one of those days. Plus, it’s a lazy Sunday. An apéritif was in order.
I am pretty familiar with the types of foods both cultures typically serve for apéritif, many of which are always on hand a casa.
Part of the fun is having an imagination about what you would like to serve and combining that with what you have on hand. It’s a perfetto time to use leftovers, or items that you only have a few morsels of.
A common French drink, especially in the South of France, for apéritif, is Pastis. An herbal anise drink which is usually diluted with water in a tall glass. It is different from Absinthe, but closely related.
Italians will drink campari, prosecco or maybe even a bellini. In recent years, wine has become an acceptable alternative to the classic campari and soda.
Today our apéritif consisted of:
* vine ripened tomotoes dressed in olive oil, sea salt, pepper and fresh torn basil
* marinated cippolini onions
* toasted Italian bread, drizzled with olive oil and fresh rosemary from our garden
* Italian sweet summer sausage
* fresh local cheese- one cow’s milk, one goat’s milk
* a honeycomb
And to wash it all down, a chilled, crisp Sicilian vino bianco.
Now, the one thing I didn’t have on hand that is always on my table for apéritif, are sweet baby gherkins. Cornichons are very much a French classic, but I prefer sweet to sour.
Other popular alternatives for noshing are pistachios, potato chips, grilled veggies like eggplant or zucchini, marinated favorites like mushrooms and artichokes, prosciutto and melone and whatever fruit is in season, such as figs, cherries or strawberries.
I have admittedly read way too many memoirs containing story upon story of apéritif in the French Countryside and aperitivo in its Italian counterpart. Each tale filled with deliciously prepared food of the season, friends and family gathered around the old wooden communal table dressed in white linen and placed under the afternoon shade of the nearest olive or fruit tree, sharing stories, clinking glasses of continuously topped-off wine until dinner arrives and it’s all repeated well into the wee hours of the night.
Oh, what I would not give to be a part of that.
But today, myself and my vivid imagination were joined by Chris and Madison as we sat on the covered front porch, surrounded by fresh herbs, flowering plants, garden statuary and antique urns, and we enjoyed our Sunday apéritif.
As I was daydreaming of taking an apéritif with friends in France, the clouds moved overhead and rain began to fall, gently, from the sky.
Without missing a beat, Chris and I looked at one another as he said, “Now it really feels like Paris.”
I guess I am not the only one with an imagination!
What are your favorite things to eat for apéritif/aperitivo? What about to drink? What stories do you have to share?