Today’s a special day in France, it’s the 12th day of Christmas, Epiphany and, more importantly, the day when the cake known as Galette des Rois is traditionally served. However, in practice, it’s served throughout the month of January.
This puff pastry delight is a piece of French gastronomic history from as far back as 14th century, though for a short while during the turmoil of the French Revolution it was called the “Gâteau de l’egalité” as any reference to royalty was frowned upon.
The cake is made of a seriously buttery puff pastry, filled with almond paste, the top of which is typically decorated like a pithiviers. Patisseries and boulangeries produce little else during January. Some are quite creative, making them from various types of frangipane such as pistachio or chocolate or even apple.
The Galette des Rois is a reminder of the Three Kings in the Bible – Melchior, Balthasar and Caspar. To commemorate their journey to Bethlehem, a little figurine called a ‘fève’ is hidden in the galette des rois. In olden days it would traditionally be a baby Jesus but these days it could be anything!
Tradition says that whoever has a slice of the cake with the ‘fève’ in it becomes the King or Queen for a day and gets to wear the golden cardboard crown which comes with the cake when you buy it.
In the south of France, the galette is more traditionally made from brioche dough and decorated with glace or dried fruits. Sadly I’m forbidden both of these delights but my beloved has no such problem and has already been conducting some extensive taste tests. His favourites so far are from Patisserie Lac but that could change in the next few weeks as he tastes more and more!
Usually, in January the cycling club has a galettes des rois get together for all its members. In years past, I’ve been in charge of the catering but not since we changed clubs. It’s unlikely the cycle club willl have anything to rival Lac, but you never know!
The club’s AGM is by and large a rather boring affair, apart from the food and the prizegiving. In case you’re interested, I have yet again, for the third (or is it fourth, I’ve lost count) time in a row, made a clean sweep of the trophies in the “feminine category”. Lest I get too big-headed I should point out that there’s barely any competition. I have again suggested that just one big trophy will suffice as I’m running out of room in the terrace shed trophy cabinet.
It’s boring because it’s long-winded. We’re cyclists, we don’t like sitting still for too long but everyone has to have their say. I generally pray that not too many public officials turn up or, if they do, we’re merely a pit stop on their pressing evening agendas. The starring role is reserved for M le President who’ll faithfully read from his pre-prepared script which I’ve already forcibly pruned back. I suggested that getting things off one’s chest in print (the public officials get copies), and on the night, would not be advisable. But there’s more than just a spot of pissaladiere to look forward to. Although as I’ve made it, it will be worth it. This year’s highlight will be the presence of two local professional riders who’ll probably say a few words too, but they’ll be words worth listening to.
Easily the most stupefying bit of the whole evening in the past has been the presentation of the club’s accounts. In previous year’s these have been read out, in their entirety or, much worse beamed onto a screen where even those sitting in the front row would need binoculars to see the figures. It’s got to be done, but no one’s found a way to make it either interesting or informative. I should mention that the presentation of the accounts is prefaced by the auditors, one of whom (a real rarity) is actually an accountant and the other’s a retired chief of police, saying they’ve checked the accounts and they’re satisfied that they’re correct. No true and fair view here!
I had planned to graphically explain the accounts briefly with the aid of a few pie charts, or “camemberts” as they’re called here, but the beamer’s broke. Fear not, inspiration has struck. I’m going to be using a wheel, from a racing bike, to illustrate my points. How apt is that? Whether this will be any more successful remains to be seen, but I am bearing in mind my audience: retired lift engineers and municipal gardeners. It’s going to be short and sweet. I will, of course, be getting in my dig at M Le Maire for fobbing us off with the same subsidy for 15 months as we normally get for 12, despite our vastly increased membership. By the same token, I won’t be making any reference to this season’s fall in numbers.
I have today been slowly ticking off everything on my AGM “To Do ” checklist until all that remains is my own contribution to the best bit: the food. In honour of our professional cyclists I’m making a reduced fat galette des rois. The regular version is frangipane encased in puff pastry. My lighter one has apples mixed into the frangipane and it’s shrouded with filo pastry. In addition, I’m making some chocolate galette des rois, savoury cakes, pissaladiere, fois gras toasties and cooking some mini sausages. The rest of the food has been bought and/or ordered for collection en route. My faithful band of helpers, without whom none of these events would ever take place, are lined up to prepare everything while we’re boring everyone else to tears. Ah, so that’s why we’re not short of volunteers, they’re nobody’s fools.
Postscript: AGM went well and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. There were a couple of lowlights: our subsidy for next year is being reduced by a third – economic crisis! My beloved accidentally deleted all his fab photos of the event. None of the Professional cyclists got an opportunity to evaluate my “lite” galette des rois – too slow, eaten by the hordes ahead of those I bought from the Patisserie!
Highlights: I got to kiss both Amael and Geoffroy when they presented me with my (two) trophies.