At my engraving (gravure) class this week we were treated to a homemade Twelfth Night Cake made of frangipani or grated almond paste. We drank cider and popped open a bottle of good champagne brought by another student. All this before we started class at 9am ! ( we didn't want the chemical smells of our various processes to mix with our treat.)
All through the month of January and particularly from Christmas eve to epiphany, Jan. 6, this is a treat shared in many Catholic countries wherever friends come together .
It's the third galette I have had this month already and this time I drew one of the favors in my slice.
The recipient of the feve or dried bean is the queen and the ceramic trinket ( usually of santon http://www.francetoday.com/articles/2011/12/14/the_santons_of_provence.htm or village person figurine but now disney figures are often found) is meant for the king or Roi.
Various privileges and obligations are implied including the wearing of the paper crowns that come with the cakes bought from the bakery.
Related culinary traditions are the tortell of Catalonia, the gâteau des Rois in Provence or the galette des Rois in the northern half of France. The galette des Rois is made with puff pastry and frangipane while the gâteau des Rois is made with brioche and candied fruit. Both types are sold and made in the South.
Samuel Pepys (whose wife was French) recorded a party in London on Epiphany night, 6 January 1659/1660: "...to my cousin Stradwick, where, after a good supper, there being there my father, mothers, brothers, and sister, my cousin Scott and his wife, Mr. Drawwater and his wife, and her brother, Mr. Stradwick, we had a brave cake brought us, and in the choosing, Pall was Queen and Mr. Stradwick was King. After that my wife and I bid adieu and came home, it being still a great frost."
I love new traditions and this one is particularly "amicable": Friendly and fattening too. But ah, I seem to remember a book I read, " French Women Don't get Fat" and so it seems for some lucky few.