If there’s one thing the French love it’s weird holidays or ‘fêtes’. They go mad for them.
One that seems to never end is the Epiphany tradition of the ‘galette des rois’ or king cake. Apparently celebrated on the 6th of January, these round, flat cakes can still be bought in supermarkets and boulangeries now (note it is currently February). Either brioche or frangipane, the cake is sliced up and distributed amongst the group. Kids poke and check the undersides of their pieces, hoping to have won the ‘fève’, the little porcelain figurine that’s been baked into the cake. Whoever wins the little trinket is crowned king or queen. Yup, there’s a crown and everything.
My first experience with the ol’ galette was rather sweet. I went to one of my student’s houses for our weekly lesson and her mum brought out the cake. My student explained how it worked and her mum went off to cut it up and sneakily try to find the fève so I could win it. Sadly it was hidden from sight. Surprise! It must be destiny because against all odds I was crowned queen!
Unfortunately the second time round (on the 27th), wasn’t quite so easy. I was at a dinner party (oohlala, how very grown up) and the galette des rois was brought out. Oh did I forget to mention the other part of this tradition? Oh yea, the youngest is supposed to go under the table and without being able to see, calls out the names of each person as each piece is cut. I wonder who the youngest person there was… after much ‘je veux pas le faire!’ I found myself squidged under the table calling out the names of everyone present. No, I didn’t win the fève.
But it’s not just children who like winning fèves, I visited the home of a friend’s parents on the weekend and his mum must have hundreds of them! All lined up in a glass cabinet in the kitchen. So strange.
And that’s the story of the galette des rois, what will they think of next??