lundi 7 janvier 2013

It's good to be Queen!

Yesterday was Epiphany, and Parisians lined up at their favorite bakeries to buy galette des Rois, the French version of King cake. On my street it was no exception, and yes I too gave into the temptation and joined the long queue for one of the puff pastries that were selling as fast as they could pull them out from the oven.

The pastries contain little trinkets called fèves, and over the years I've been collecting them – that is, when I'm lucky enough to get the piece containing the trinket and be crowned queen!

Fève is French for bean, and the word is still used even though the custom of putting an actual bean in the cake ended a long time ago. Every year, as pieces of cake are handed out and everyone eyes each other's plate on the wary lookout for the "bean", I can't help but think of poor Alobar from Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins. Celebrating his first Christmas in the village of Aelfric, the hero of the book is given a piece of cake and finds a bean. For twelve glorious days he really lives it up as the King of the Bean, marvelling at all the liberties he is allowed. Come Epiphany, however, he discovers the dark end to the deal and has to hotfoot it out of town, deciding (once again) it's not so good to be King, after all.

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