The "galette des rois"
In France, Epiphany is celebrated on January 6. And for this, naturally, we bake a cake. It's a puff pastry cake with frangipane. It is eaten slightly warmed. Inside is a bean, originally a real bean, but now a small porcelain figurine that some people collect. Whoever finds the bean in his or her slice of galette becomes the king or queen. Sometimes it's said to bring good luck. In any case, it entitles the winner to a magnificent golden cardboard crown, which he or she keeps on his or her head throughout the tasting session.
A cake with a surprise inside
Clara Vasseur is a journalist. She lives in Hamburg, but actually travels between France and Germany. Today she tells us about a French custom.
-Do you know the story of the German student who arrives in Paris at the beginning of January and, suddenly a little hungry, goes into the first bakery that comes along. There wasn't much choice: everywhere there were the same round cakes labelled "galette des rois". She thought to herself, "It's incredible how aristocratic the French tend to be", and treated herself to a small galette with a tempting aroma. She bit into it enthusiastically: disaster! She fell on something hard and broke a tooth. Aïe or rather "aua" as they say in Germany.
In France, the feast of kings is called "l'épiphanie", a word of Greek origin "epiphaneia" meaning "appearance". It was in January that the child Jesus was revealed to the Three Wise Men: Gaspard, Melchior and Balthazar. And to celebrate this event in style, the famous galette des rois is prepared: an excellent cake made with puff pastry and frangipane. There's a bean hidden inside.
Well, originally it was a bean. Today, it's a little porcelain figurine. The French love these beans and some even collect them. Whoever gets the bean becomes king or queen for the day. A superb crown made of gold cardboard is placed on his or her head, and every time he or she raises his or her glass to the lips, the others shout enthusiastically: le Roi boit! The King drinks!
A whidespread tradition
Historians may argue about the origins of this pagan custom, which dates back to Roman times or the Middle Ages, but it doesn't matter. In France, the galette des rois is sacred! At home, at grandma's house, at the office - and yes, especially at the office - all of France stuffs itself, all of France draws the kings with passion and often with champagne. And every year, for the thousandth time, we tell our office colleagues how things are going at home. Because there are different ways of doing things. Sometimes it's the youngest who has to hide under the table to answer blindly the question: hey binky, who's that piece for? It's for Daddy, Aunt Bernadette and so on. It doesn't matter, the important thing is that we draw kings and talk about it.
Twenty years ago, Kings were only celebrated on 6 January. Today, however, galettes are eaten almost non-stop from 2 to 15 January. The bakers are clever: they have understood that the French, those former revolutionaries, all want to become king or queen for a day. And to make sure everyone gets their turn, they sell their galettes for a fortnight. There's just one more thing to do: make sure that this festival, which has already become pagan, doesn't turn into a "Etouffe-chrétien". That's what we call a very heavy dish or cake that weighs so much on the stomach that it risks suffocating any normally constituted person. So it's best to buy your galette from a really good baker.