beans, traditions… 5 unusual things to know

Galette des rois is eaten on the second Sunday after Christmas.

The Galette des rois invites him to the French table in January. An opportunity to (re)discover dry anecdotes about this culinary tradition.

Who will be elected queen or king for a day? To find out, don’t forget to include the famous galette des rois in the January 6th menu. In Christian tradition, this date corresponds to Epiphany, when Jesus Christ met the three Magi, Balthazar, Melchior and Gaspard, twelve days after his birth. But because January 6 sometimes falls on a weekday, the 1802 reform allowed Catholics to postpone the celebration until the second Sunday after Christmas, which is January 8, 2023. Foodies and fabophiles (peanut collectors) can be assured, galettes des rois are easy to find in bakeries and pastries throughout the first month of the year.

The origin of pancakes is pagan

Like many Christian holidays, the tradition of the galette des rois is said to draw from a pagan festival that dates back to ancient times, and more precisely to ancient Rome’s Saturnalia. The Romans then held a major festival on the winter solstice, to pay homage to Saturn, the god of agriculture and the weather. Beans, legumes, were hidden in a piece of cake that was distributed to their masters and slaves who ate at the same table. Whoever pulled the bean was appointed Prince of Saturnalia and all his wishes were granted for a day, regardless of rank.

When the “king” has to pay for his tour

In the 14th century, custom dictated that a “drinking king” be elected. “Usually, whoever finds the bean has to pay his spin on the table,” explains Nadine Cretin, a holiday historian who specializes in the anthropology of religion at L’Express. Legend has it that the most miserly people would rather swallow nuts than pay. The “king” would be afraid to swallow it so a porcelain fève was then made.

From peanuts to gold bars

Pulses were replaced by porcelain nibs around 1874, in Germany. The first ones produced in France appeared much later, after the First World War, in Limoges. Today, most are made of ceramic and “95% made in China”, explains 20-minute Stéphanie Briand-Viaud, manager of the Blain museum, in Loire-Atlantique.

An object of its time, the fève represented mostly a religious symbol at the time and can now take the form of a World Cup or a Walt-Disney character. In 2023, a baker and pastry chef from Calais hid gold bars as nuts in one of his pancakes, reports RTL. Likewise in Saint-Jacques-de-la-Lande, near Rennes, where two gold bars were up for grabs, according to France 3. Lidl, the marketing champion, promised 30 vouchers worth 1,000 euros for those who fell in love. peanut.

President removed from the nuts

Since the presidency of Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, from 1974 to 1981, cakes made by French artisans have been delivered to the Élysée Palace. But neither Brigitte Macron nor Emmanuel Macron will be able to give up. “There are no nuts in this cake because the president cannot be king and president of the Republic, he only has a title!”, explained Nelly Julien who did the cake for the 2020 Élysée on the Europe 1 microphone.

Each place has its own cake

In France, a galette des rois generally consists of a puff pastry filled with frangipani and gold in the oven. In Provence it also exists in the form of a brioche with candied fruit, symbolizing the crown of the Magi. Spaniards and Portuguese will sample pancakes over Provençal brioche while Greeks will love the traditional cake, vasilopita, to celebrate New Year’s Day. Whoever shares with the coin is said to be lucky for the whole year.

On average, the French consume 30 million galettes des rois in January alone. Figures that could go down because of prices, go up because of energy and raw material costs.

VIDEO – Lidl: this year, the discounter’s galette des rois is going to get people talking

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