About a week ago I had the pleasure of being invited to dinner at one of my few French friend's home. Living in Paris for seven years I now know not to show up too early, (i.e. "on time" in America).
Last time I arrived 20 minutes after the start-time. Too late, it seemed. This night, I arrived five minutes after the start-time. Too early. When guides to living in France recommend arriving 10 minutes after the start, they really mean 10 minutes. While I knew this, I just didn't plan it accurately. My friend greeted me and then left me in the living room while she took a phone call. I waited watching the goldfish till all the other ladies arrived "on time" (10 minutes after the start).
The apero (cocktail hour) lasted about 1 1/2 hours as eight woman shared a bottle of champagne, talking about our children, the school, languages, and other pleasant topics. Moving from the salon (living room) to the salle a manger (dining room) our conversation switched to the ever-important "which is the best boulangerie" (bakery) and "which type of bread is best at each one." (Now I know.) :)
My friend regaled us with a delicious Pot-au-feu, a traditional French dish that was perfect on this cold night. For dessert we were treated to an Apple and Pear Crumble with fruit direct from her home in Normandy. (If that doesn't get more authentic, I don't know what does!)
The evening of conviviality continued--a full-on experience français--listening and speaking in French, eating classic dishes and luxuriating in the pleasure of having nice French friends and living in this city, this country.