Have you ever dreamed once in your life of being a King or a Queen for a moment? Well in France it is possible and it happens precisely on the Epiphany’s day (in Greek “apparition”) with the Galette des Rois. The original date January 6, is a Christian holiday that commemorates the visit of the Three Kings to the child Jesus. This happens every first Sunday of January (unless it falls on January 1st).
But let’s move on to the biblical side and focus on the gastronomic side. Because if this holiday is important for believers, it is also very much anchored for the gastronomic believers.
On this occasion, we rush to his best neighbourhood bakery to buy the famous “Galette des Rois”. Some people prefer frangipane and almond paste, and others candied fruit brioche but basically something really matters in the heart of the French: have the bean and become the king or the queen.
Then what are the origins of the galette?
This purely pagan tradition dates back to the 13th century and is not religious. This is rather the winter solstice also called at the time of the Romans “Saturnalia”, period during which a king was elected.
Originally it was a cake of sharing, it was cut in as many portions as guests and we added a part that was one of the poor.
As a child, we adore this tradition, the youngest child (supposed to be innocent) must go under the table to mention who will be given the portions among those guests, a practice that apparently dates back to the same period.
And what about this bean story?
The bean was the symbol of fertility during the winter solstice. We insert a bean in the cake and the person who finds the bean in his share becomes the king or the queen.
At the time, the one who found the bean had to pay his shout, the most stingy had to find the solution: swallow the bean. It was then that porcelain beans were drawn, the first of which was made in 1875. And yes, one thinks twice before swallowing porcelain.
Did you know ?
The galette was long a major subject of contention to the point that in the seventeenth century, some religious even tried to make it disappear. Obviously frangipane has had its last word.
So galette or brioche? It will depend on you but also the region of France, although in the South of France, tradition is the brioche, the French generally prefer the frangipane.
In short you will understand, French I will not miss the opportunity to be perhaps the queen because it is the only time of the year and in the history of France that the French treat very well the royalty.
Bon appétit !