The fun doesn’t have to end there, though.
French culture is deeply wedded to their many traditions, an endearing quality that seems less prominent in American culture. Sure- we have those paramount customs that surround the major holidays, but the French seem to appreciate such activities throughout the year. Flip crêpes every year on February second for la chandeleur. There’s also Toussaint, which is a day of remembrance for deceased relatives. Even the strict adherence to practicing la bise, the infamous double-cheek kiss, largely surpasses that of the hug or the handshake here in the states. It’s considered poor etiquette not to practice la bise. Whereas in the states, such interactions may generally only be reserved for one’s closest of kin. That’s what I love about French culture. Tradition is duty, but not begrudgingly.
You can imagine my delight in learning about the beloved January tradition of the fête des rois, otherwise known as the Epiphany, which with its religious undertones, commemorates the three kings’ visit to the Christ child. If you are unfamiliar with that story, in short, it involved a bunch of frankincense and myrrh. Feel free to read further about it here. Granted, I am not a religious person. Even at my tender age of [insert your flattering guess here], I’m still trying to find my spiritual niche. That being said, my enthusiasm for this celebration resides mostly in the eaten component, which involves a delightfully flaky flat cake, the galette des rois.
Now, this is where today’s post takes a delicious turn…
The galette des rois (roughly translating to kings’ cake) is a puff pastry cake typically filled with frangipane, an almond flavor filling. The top is scored with notches, resembling a crown, and browned to pristine perfection. The best part? It most always is accompanied by a fancy paper crown. Hidden somewhere in the cake is a tiny porcelain charm called a fève, or bean. The lucky person to find the fève, is crowned king or queen for a day. The originally pagan tradition is said to date back to Roman times in celebrating the winter solstice, when an actual bean was placed within the cake, and a king or queen was chosen for a day. For more information on the ‘very French’ tradition, check out this great post from the French Embassy in Ottowa.
Here we are, concluding January, which in itself is hard to believe. This month, my goal was to find a galette des rois locally, try it, and see if the hype holds true. You read that correctly- in all my years being a devotee to French culture, never had I the privilege of partaking in a galette des rois. I know. I know. I don’t know how that passed by me either, but nobody is perfect! The good news? In the Boston area, galette des rois has become quite popular. I did not have to travel far to find a good one, as I had ample choice within a half-hour drive. Inevitably, I decided to visit to local French-inspired confection shop, Praliné, in Belmont. We’re going to talk all about this wonderful establishment in a separate post, but for now, let’s just focus on their stunning, and delicious, galette des rois. Warning: the following images may not be for the faint of taste…
Simply gorgeous. The taste- even better. Are you alright? My heart palpitated too! The flaky crumbling gets me every time. If only we could relive history, right? My friends, this was as perfect as perfect could be. Most importantly- who won the fève? As soon as I dug the knife in for the first slice, I was immediately hit with something hard. Call it coincidence. Call it luck. Call it whatever you’d like, but yours truly was sporting a crown for the rest of the day… err… maybe week. Okay, perhaps I’ve extended my reign to the end of January… or really, the rest of 2017. That would be the one, minor alteration to this otherwise fun tradition. Why stop at being royalty for a day? Let’s just go ahead and make it a year until the next galette des rois. So far, so good in this household. Not convinced? Neither is my husband.
At any rate, this was a fun start to the new year, and I’m excited to participate with friends and family moving forward. In fact, I would even say this is the best way to help surpass those holiday doldrums that creep on us the second New Year’s Day ends.
What about you? Do you partake in the galette des rois tradition? Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.
À la prochaine!