This is a photo of my fève collection from the galette des rois. You can click on it to see the fèves in more detail. You can see that some come from the same bakery (the two see-through carafes, the sugar and jam, for instance). I haven’t kept any of the less interesting white plaster ones. Anyone who wants to make their own galette can buy fèves on ebay and amazon or, alternatively, as someone suggested on Facebook today, you can use a whole almond!
The flat one with the gold leaf is the latest addition, brought home by Jean Michel from work.
We were invited by our neighbours for a galette des rois. Liliane and Alain had bought two types – one with almond filling (frangipane) and one with apple filling just in case we didn’t like frangipane. I took along some Christmas crackers (or bonbons as we call them in Australia) which, surprisingly, I had found at Truffaut, the local gardening store, so we ended up with two sets of crowns! Françoise, being the youngest, should have gone under the table, but we let her close her eyes instead and indicate who should have which piece – not that Alain took any notice of her. He just went ahead and served according to the size of the piece! Jean Michel got the first fève and crowned Liliane who then got the second one.
For this week’s Blogger Round-Up and as a follow-up to my last Friday’s French post, I thought I’d find three different posts about the galette des rois or the French cake of kings, an increasingly popular tradition in France which starts on or about January 6th (feast of the Epiphany) and continues right up until the end of the month. Susan from Days on the Claise explains how to make your own galette, Mary Kay from Out and About in Paris reports on turning the tradition into a fund-raising initiative for maladies orphelines while Janine from The Good Life France gives us a very complete description of the galette and its various traditions. You might also like to read my own post on the subject written a couple of years ago. Enjoy!
Galette des rois, à peu près
by Susan from Days on the Claise, an Australian living in the south of the Loire Valley, writing about restoring an old house and the area and its history and running Loire Valley Time Travel.
Well, sort of. I’m going to tell you how to make a quick and easy version, that, although it won’t be in the same league as Walt’s and your local pâtissière’s, is still a very acceptable addition to the post-Christmas table — and the real thing is getting very expensive, so homemade is an economical option! Read more
King Cake (Galette des Rois) and the meaning of “Maladie Orpheline”
by Mary Kay from Out and About in Paris, an American by birth, Swiss by marriage, resident of Paris with a Navigo Pass for the metro that she feels compelled to use
In spite of having been married to a native French speaker for many years, I’m not fluent in French. But since we raised our children in a bilingual home, my comprehension is usually fairly accurate. All of this is just a roundabout way of admitting that I felt really foolish after incorrectly translating maladie orpheline on Twitter. Here’s the tweet:
In a hurry to help spread the word about a fund-raising initiative by some of the top pastry chefs in Paris, I didn’t take the time to google maladie orpheline. Instead, I rapidly translated it as “childhood illnesses” and waited until my walking French dictionary returned home from work. “I’m confused about something.” Read more
Galette des Rois – The French Cake of Kings
By Janine Marsh from The Good Life France, an independent on-line magazine about France and all things French, covering all aspects of daily life including healthcare, finance, utilities, education, property and a whole lot more.
The 6th of January is a special day in France, it is the 12th day of Christmas, the date of the Epiphany and most importantly the day when all over France the cake known as galette des rois is traditionally served.
This flaky cake known as the King’s Tart is a piece of French gastronomic history which goes back several centuries.
The cake is made of a seriously buttery puff pastry, filled with almond paste, baked and often decorated beautifully with candied fruit. Patisseries and boulangeries compete to create the most magnificent of cakes and supermarket shelves will be heaving with boxed galette des Rois from the end of December. Read more
I couldn’t resist the temptation to take a look at new year’s greetings in France particularly since I overheard my father-in-law explaining the tradition of mistletoe in France to Jean Michel and it didn’t seem very clear to me so I checked it out.
There are several different explanations but it seems that the Druids used to say o ghel an heu, meaning “may the wheat germinate”, when they cut the sacred mistletoe at the winter solstice. This seems to have gradually muted into kissing under the mistletoe at new year and saying au gui l’an neuf which is a corruption of the original Celtic expression and doesn’t have any obvious meaning on its own. I’ve never actually heard anyone say it.
Later, the expression became Bon an mal an, Dieu soit céans, i.e. good year, bad year, may God be with you. By itself bon an mal an means on average as in our expression taking one year with the other. Bon an mal an, l’immigration se maintient au Québec = Immigration in Quebec is about the same each year.
Nowadays the most common new year expression is bonne année ou bonne et heureuse année often followed by et la santé surtout as you get older and health becomes more of an issue. You wish people bonne année the first time you see them throughout the month of January. You can also say meilleurs vœux (best wishes), je vous souhaite une excellente année 2014 (I wish you an excellent 2014), que vos vœux les plus chers se réalisent (may your dearest wishes come true). Santé, joie and bonheur (health, joy and happiness) are usually in there somewhere as well. Jean Michel’s favourite is Bonne année et bonne santé physique et morale. He says that way he’s covered everything.
Note that you don’t say nouvel an except when you’re referring to new year’s eve or new year’s day e.g. je vous verrai au nouvel an : I’ll see you at New Year or nous avons fêté la nouvelle année en famille : we celebrated new year at home. A new year card is une carte de nouvel an or une carte du nouvel an but it’s probably more correct to say une carte de vœux de/du nouvel an. You don’t see them much any more but when I moved to France in 1975, people used to send tiny cards about half the size of a normal envelope.
Something I find interesting is that Jean Michel never bothers to contact his family at Christmas but makes sure that he talks to everyone on New Year’s day. For me and my Australian family, it’s quite the opposite. Christmas is more important.
And there is an unwritten rule that the younger members call the older members first. As Jean Michel’s the oldest, he only has to call his father.When I sent messages to both my children at midnight on New Year’s Eve this year, he was quite surprised that I didn’t wait until they contacted me.
Today the galette des rois or kings’ cake is probably the greatest symbol of the new year in France. A galette was originally a buckwheat pancake from the country of the Gauls (Gallois) and by extension any thick, flat cake or biscuit. I’ve described the tradition of the galette des rois in another post. Today I’m only looking at the linguistic aspect.
A popular expression connected with the galette des rois is tirer les rois. Tirer means to draw stakes, so tirer les rois means that people are going to share a galette and see who gets the token or fève inside.
But each region of France is different so you may know of other new year traditions.
This post is a contribution to Lou Messugo’s All About France link-up. Feel free to pop over and have a look at the other posts this month by clicking here.
It’s Saturday and I’m back in Paris at last. The scaffolding has been removed from our windows so we decide to replace some of our house plants because I’m not the only one to have suffered from Seasonal Affective Disorder. We go down our four flights of stairs with the shopping trolley and discover it’s spitting. Neither of us wants to walk back up for an umbrella. I have a hood and Relationnel has a hat. That will have to do.
We walk down Rue de Rivoli to the end of the Louvre then turn right towards Quai de la Megisserie. On our left we see a brass band and some sort of stall being set up in front of the Town Hall. It looks as though the neighbourhood association (1er arrondissement) is going to be handing out galettes des rois. If you don’t know what they are, you can read my last year’s post, Galette des Rois – King’s Cake. We decide we’ll check in on the way back, despite my diet.
It’s winter of course so most of the traditional pet and plant shops don’t have much out on the pavement and the largest, Vilmorin, is closed for renovation. Relationnel wants to find a new fern to replace the one he loves best which I think is a fishbone fern. We also need a bird’s nest fern and at least one other plant. None of the stores has a fishbone but we buy a bird’s nest and another plant at Casa Nova and Relationnel sees two little maidenhairs that he wants. I object because, in my experience, they keel over within weeks of buying them.
He insists however so we get them. We decide to go and get the car and go to Truffaut, an enormous nursery on the other side of town. We go past the Town Hall again and there are lots of people eating galette and drinking cider and hot chocolate while the band is playing a catchy tune in the background. There’s a big banner up on the Town Hall that mysteriously says “La viande est un métier” (Meat is a profession).
I nearly crack my tooth on the fève, which is a tiny red handbag of all things. I go and claim my reversible crown (Reine on one side and Roi on the other which I’ve never seen before!). A lady comes up to me and asks to see my fève obviously very sad she didn’t get one herself but I don’t hand it over because I want to add it to my collection.
We move off and go past a bag and luggage store which is having its after-Christmas sales and buy a suitcase with four wheels to replace the one that disappeared on our way back from Australia, plus a cabin bag to match. I’ve been wanting a four-wheel model for a while. I love the way people just glide them effortlessly along the ground. We chose dark red so the suitcase will stand out better than black on the carousel and not get pinched again.
As we reach Place du Palais Royal, just opposite the Louvre, we hear more music. It’s a jazz band this time with a big pink and white tuba. They’re all clowing around and enjoying themselves. The classical orchestra that is often on nearby Place Colette hasn’t made an appearance. I guess they were put off by the rain which fortunately has ceased.
At Truffaut, there is a still no fishbone fern, so Relationnel very reluctantly settles for another kind instead. I promise to cut the old one right back and see if some TLC and a lot of light (in my office) will revive it. We get home and replace all the dead plants, taking particular care when replanting the maidenhairs. I’ll let you know how long I manage to keep them alive!
When I first came to France, the galette des rois was only celebrated on the feast of the Epiphany, the famous 12th day of Christmas, January 6th, the day on which the three kings reached Bethlehem. Now you see the first galettes at New Year and you can buy them right up until 31st January. A galette is a flat cake and the word is also used to describe buckwheat crêpes.
They are two types of galettes des rois: fourrée and non fourrée, meaning that they contain almond cream or are plain. Leonardo disliked almond cream up until recent years so we always bought the plain one, which caused problems among adepts. I can remember one friend actually buying a second galette when I said I’d bring the galette to her house, just in case I only bought the plain sort! Our friendship was short-lived.
The quality of the galette depends on the bakery or pâtisserie you buy it from. It’s basically flaky pastry with a thick pasty almond cream (called “frangipane“) containing a fève or broad bean and is sold with a cardboard crown. Today, the fève is a small plaster or porcelain figurine that can represent anything from a traditional baker to a Disney character. The crowns can be anything from a basic gold affair to something more elaborate and colourful. Usually the more expensive the galette, the more original the fève and crown will be. When the kids were little, they used to make their own.
Traditionally, the youngest child gets under the table. The galette is cut into as many pieces as there are guests. The person under the table then indicates who should get each piece. This was Black Cat’s prerogative before I met Relationnel. After that, it was Thoughtful, as the second twin to be born, who would go under the table. This year, we had our first galette (a little early) with my Australian cousin who is a few months younger. When Brainy Pianist comes back from holidays, it will be his turn. It’s very amusing to see these tall teenagers disappearing under the table!
Whoever gets the fève then chooses a king or queen. When the galette is shared among friends, the person with the fève has to buy the next galette so you can see why it could go on forever. The galette is better when you can warm it in the oven. I’ve tried making my own, but flaky pastry is a tedious affair and even if you buy the pastry ready made, I still prefer the almond paste in the ones from the bakery.
Sharing a galette des rois is popularly known as tirer les rois, where tirer means to draw stakes. We usually accompany it with apple juice and cider but that may just be our own tradition.