Holiday – France

“So um this holiday is celebrated around Epiphany which is at the beginning of January…usually the 6th of January. What we do in France is that we make this cake which is called…well I guess the literal translation would be ‘King Cake’ and we bake it before, during, and after the 6th of January to celebrate the Epiphany. And my mom usually makes the cake and she usually makes more than one ‘cause we really enjoy eating it. And it’s also sold like everywhere in France. Like, you see it in bakeries and it’s really popular. In French it’s called ‘Galette des Rois.’ I know it’s made up of…um, I know it has like almond paste in it. And also, the special thing about it is there’s this charm in the middle of it and the point of having this cake is um when you are about to cut it, the youngest person that’s at the table goes under the table and calls out who’s gonna get the piece so that it’s like a fair way to get the charm. So, for example, like my sister usually goes ‘cause she’s the youngest and my mom says ‘Who’s this for?’ and she would say um you or my dad or me or my brother and then that person would get the fair piece and shouldn’t know where the charm was ‘cause sometimes you can see it like through the cake so that way like she doesn’t know anything and we all get it fairly…well, if we do get it. I guess the reward is you get this crown which you can buy them and they’re just made of…um, cardboard I guess. And you get to be King for the day and if you’re a girl you get to be Queen. Well you also choose your, well if you’re a king you can choose your queen and if you’re queen you can choose your king for the day. It’s just for fun mostly. I mean, it’s like really widespread ‘cause they’re available everywhere like in bakeries and I mean I’m sure most people do it or like, if they don’t make ‘em then they buy them in bakeries and it’s just like…I mean, it’s a Christian holiday but it’s become more like a tradition than a religious holiday that everyone celebrates. It’s usually my mom who prepares the cake. I think it’s usually whoever knows how to make the cake makes it. She didn’t do this when she was growing up ‘cause her family is Swedish-American so they don’t have this tradition but on my dad’s side they did it ‘cause they’re French. And if we go to there place during, um, that time of the year, we usually get it too. And they also have these cakes at schools and stuff so if you’re at school… it’s like a really widespread festivity I guess. And at school you get it, like at the office they usually have it for people and then whoever gets it is recognized as king…or queen. I don’t know where my mom got the recipe ‘cause, I mean, there’s tons of different ones. She might have gotten it from my grandma but I mean, I think mostly the recipes’ similar it’s just like knowing how to make it more puffy than others ‘cause it’s hard to do that I guess.”

Upon further research, I learned that the King Cake is to honor the Three Wise Men who visited the birth of Jesus, “the newborn king of kings in Bethlehem.” More information about the Galette des Rois can be found in the essay “Les Galettes des Rois: The Eating of Fine Art.”

Annotation: Bauman, James. “Les Galettes des Rois: The Eating of Fine Art”. The Wilder Shores of Gastronomy: Twenty Years of Food Writing. Ten Speed Press: December 2002. Page 207-215.