Les apéitifs, translated as either aperitifs or pre-prandial drinks, a customary prelude to a meal here. But an invitation to apéros–what is that, exactly? What it’s not is an invitation to dinner. It’s often the first kind of invitation you might get, an invitation to spend une bonne heure at your host’s for a small drink and nibbles before you go home (or to the restaurant) for your dinner. Knowing when to leave seems to be the art that counts–and reading body language is key.

It has taken me a while to get used to this custom, that I don’t think is uniquely French but is very un-British. In the UK, you get would invited to dinner or drinks, and the drinks last considerably more than an hour!

So last night my first stab at hosting apéros. I’d invited two neighbours (one forgot) and stocked up with stuffed olives, radishes and various cheesy comestibles, together with a range of odd drinks, designed to be consumed before eating.

I needn’t have worried. And I  really should have cooked. In the end the conversation flowed so well, my guest stayed the whole evening and in the end it was too late to think about dinner. Next time I think it will be the full works.