January is the month that everyone is waiting for the end of and yet, it passes by so slowly. Paris has been particularly dull these past few weeks due to the seemingly relentless rain and the question on everybody’s lips is “Is it Spring yet?!” Within the last month, we had one glorious day on sunshine, which my boyfriend and I spent strolling next to the flooded banks of the Seine. However, for the rest of the month, we’ve had to occupy ourselves with other pastimes.
Apéro is, in my mind at least, a form of art for the French. When I first arrived in France, I delighted in the way that people gathered together for a few glasses of wine with small plates of charcuterie and cheese – it was something I’d never experienced in the UK and it’s still one of the small things that I love about living here.
Whether it’s at home or in a bar, everyone has their ideal ingredients for their perfect apéro composition. This month, I went to Chez Nous, a cute wine bar in Saint-Germain, to celebrate a colleague’s birthday. While we all swiftly agreed on our choice of wine (red), opinions often differ when ordering small plates of food – should we go for 2 meat and 2 cheese plates, 3 cheese and 1 meat, or something different altogether? And once you’ve chosen your combo, which type of meat or cheese to select? One thing is for certain, I have never had the same apéro combination more than once and at the same time, I have never had a bad apéro.
Continuing in the theme of food, one rainy Sunday my boyfriend and I took ourselves to the Musée du Chocolat which, as you might have guessed, is a museum on the theme of Chocolate. The first part of the exhibition tells the history of chocolate, from the Aztecs to its introduction in Europe in the form of a liquid drink. Next, the story continues with the commercialisation of chocolate, moving into solid form before heading downstairs to a demonstration from one of their chocolatiers and finally gazing at structures such as the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe made entirely from chocolate.
Throughout the visit, we were able to taste chocolate – from tasting a recipe as close to that used by the Aztecs, to modern-day chocolate with different tastes depending on its country of origin. We finished our tour with a real-chocolate hot-chocolate, where a cube of your chocolate of choice is dunked into a cup of frothy milk. I am a self-confessed chocolate addict, forever trying to satisfy my sweet tooth, but even I was all chocolated out by the end of this museum.
The New Year is usually the time of calorie-counting following the indulgent festive season, but this month is anything but in France (and that’s before we even mention the galettes de roi for Epiphany!) Whilst everything must of course be taken in moderation, the French appreciation of good food and drink is something that never fails, even in the dull, dark months of January.