I recognize that this is not a uniquely French thing. But I WILL argue that they do it more often, with more enthusiasm, and with greater reward than Americans do. I’m talking about the FOOD GIFT.
This exchange occurs when one group of people (often a family) goes to another group of people’s home for a dinner/brunch/social occasion. The visiting party brings some sort of edible offering, to show their thanks. It seems simple. But this gesture leads to so much more. It builds the foundation of relationships. It shapes a culture. It is the base brick of an entire civilization.
Okay, I might be getting a little carried away, but I truly believe this is a beautiful thing. If nothing else, the house is always stocked with goodies! And once a gift has been given, a reciprocal occasion must be thrown in order for the given to become gifters, and so on and so forth…I’m telling you, it breeds dinner parties!
For example. I went with my host parents to a Chinese New Year dinner, to which they brought wine and flowers. I went to a friend’s home for dinner, and one of the other guests had brought smoked sausage, which was enjoyed as an appetizer. Good chocolate or an aperitif are also common gifts – but they’re always really high quality. Everyone wins! The hosts have special little munchies around the house, and now the guests will simply have to invite the hosts over another night.
Thus, the dinner parties and the happiness continue, in an endless cycle that brings people closer together.