Epiphany and la galette des rois

Happy Épiphanie to one and all!

Since my Chou has now reached the practically adult age of three, and nursery restarts tomorrow (where, no doubt, Epiphany will be a major topic of conversation, Christmas having taken place so long ago), I decided that it was time my family participated in the time-honoured (and much-loved) French tradition that is “tirer les rois”. In order to “draw the kings to the Epiphany” the French (among other nationalities) have been eating galettes – in my region comprising a scrumptious puff pastry frangipane tart – since the fourteenth century. The exciting part is that, hidden inside the galette, is a small trinket called a fève, the finder of which is pronounced king for the day, and gets the honour of wearing the accompanying crown.

This was to be my first ever experience of eating the tart and finding the fève, and I was disproportionately excited (as I tend to be about such things). My husband’s general attitude towards unneccessary complications, the kind of which might conspire to delay his consumption of pudding, is a ‘whelmed’ Bof!” (neither under nor over). He will good-naturedly humour me, but I am quite certain that he would prefer to forgo the pleasantries and dive straight in to anything sweet and pudding-shaped. Consequently I had never before seen the point of buying a galette, when I should only have been playing against myself.

This year (in theory) I was finally to have an adversary worthy of my enthusiasm. I had great schemes for making this a glorious Epiphany, now that my son was old enough to play. I pooh-poohed the idea of a shop-bought galette in favour of making one ourselves (since my Chou loves to cook), although we did cheat a little on the recipe and used a combination of marzipan and apricot jam – leftover from making the Christmas cake – as the filling, instead of the more laborious frangipane. I also spent a good hour (quite unnecessarily as it turns out) turning scraps of material leftover from a previous sewing project into a suitable couronne.

It might have been a very happy occasion had I not made the foolish decision to have the galette at tea time, when I should have known that my son would be at his most unreasonable – tired and fractious after refusing his nap yet again. I had reasoned that my Chou being king for the entire day (since of course I cheated and marked the location of the fève on top of the galette) would be too exhausting to contemplate. He does not require additional incentives to be imperious; it is his natural state of being. No, I had calculated that being king for half an hour between tea and bath time would be more than sufficient. What happened next was, then, entirely my own fault.

Around quarter of an hour after I had finished making the crown (whilst my son was throwing a fit over the indignity of being asked to try on an article of “fancy dress”), and whilst I was preparing to cook, our neighbours arrived with a galette of their own – a very kind “thank you” present for a loan of some tools over Christmas. I would happily have abandoned our own galette in favour of this one, but my grumpy and tyrannical Chou had been promised some cooking, so cook we did:

Homemade galette des rois
Our attempt at a galette des rois

Now we had two galettes and two crowns (our neighbours’ offering coming with its own cardboard “Asterix” headband).

Homemade crown
Homemade crown or “Asterix” crown? Hmmmm

Of course, after tea, when it was time for pudding, my Chou, exhausted and unreasonable, refused even to taste our home-made galette, insisting instead on eating the one from the boulangerie. Of course, after a great deal of general whinging, he insisted on wearing the cardboard “Asterix” crown, in a remarkable about-turn from his usual scathing views on dressing up. All in all, we would all have been much happier, and a lot less traumatised, had I not made any plans to celebrate at all, since we were clearly always fated to eat galette this year.

Thankfully the half hour was over quickly and my son was soon deposited in bed, whilst my husband took pity on me and we played again in earnest (he won).

Thankfully I had already cleared room in the fridge, since now we have two galettes to eat up – and I thought I was finished with leftovers…



Mots du jour:

La galette des rois – The kings’ cake Épiphanie – Epiphany: the day on which the new star in the sky finally led the three kings to the baby Jesus tirer les rois – to draw the kings fève – literally a broad bean. Nowadays represented by a porcelain or plastic charm Bof! Meh! couronne – crown

11 thoughts on “Epiphany and la galette des rois

  1. There are so many traditions that I see people doing all over the world and think ‘why can’t I do that?’ I think the closest we ever came to this sort of thing was when McDonalds had some cardboard ones, and when The Bloke jokingly asked me if I wanted one while I was munching on my apple pie I stood up and proudly stuck one on my head… does a McD’s apple pie and a cardboard crown count? The galette and crown both look beautiful btw!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha ha! Why shouldn’t it count? The tradition seems to be slightly different all over the world where it is celebrated. Thank you, I enjoyed making them even if they were seriously unappreciated. Kids, huh?


  2. I should have put the laptop on before you rang, it would have saved you explaining it all again… How could the terror possibly prefer a cardboard crown to your so-pretty sparkly one? He clearly doesn’t take after you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Haha. Cute story. Here in the states, only in New Orleans, they have the same tradition. Since the French settled there in the early years of this country, now I understand where it came from.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love a nice Galette though I’ve never been tempted to attempt making my own! We have a collection of several fèves from various Galettes through the years, but I lost my little plastic King, which was my souvenir of the very first Galette that I ate here in France – my students conspired to give me the fève.
    Here – though maybe not in your neck of the woods – the tradition is that once the galette has been cut, the youngest child in the room sits under the table and directs who should receive each slice of cake (“Papi …et puis maman” type thing) to negate the chances of cheating, as you did! Maybe you were tempted to bundle Chou under the table anyway, as he wasn’t at his most charming!!
    After the season of Galettes we move onto bugnes – no chance of dieting before Easter here!!


    1. I believe that the tradition is the same here, but my Chou was in no mood to be cooperative and it still wouldn’t have done much to stop me from cheating 😉 I have never heard of bugnes…what on earth are they?


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