Thursday, January 22, 2009

La Galette

For Epiphany (or the Twelfth Day of Christmas, apparently when the Magi visited the baby Jesus) the French make this lovely pastry called a galette des rois, or pastry dough filled with almond paste. It's rich, sweet, buttery, fatty - basically all the good things that make up French pastries! The galette is baked with a little porcelain figure inside of it (back in the day it used to be a bean and hence the fact that they call it a fève). Whoever gets the piece with the fève becomes the king or queen and gets to wear a crown. The galette is a huge deal in France, and everyone attends multiple galette parties in January sponsored by either family, friends, employers, or the city hall.

Unless you're the poor lonely American in town and you're lucky if you get invited to one! I was so excited this year when the teachers from V School invited me to the galette party hosted by the mayor of V Town (population 827) for all the municipal employees of V Town (basically anyone on city council, the teachers and various support staff, and the general do-stuff guys from the town).

It was very interesting to be at this small gathering of the smallest of towns. Everyone knew everyone else and had something to say (well, except me, obviously I didn't know anyone). Directrice V used the party as an opportunity to ask the mayor about things we need for the school, the teachers gossiped, I imagine the city councilors gossiped together too. I drank too much champagne but was able to hide my tipsiness (by not talking). They kept filling up my glass with really good champagne, what was I supposed to do, spill it on the floor?

Of course they were all shocked that I had never eaten a galette before. Not so strange when you consider the fact that I'm an American and didn't have any French friends last year, but of course it's pretty surprising to people who have eaten gazillions of galettes during their lifetime. They really tried to make me feel included, which was nice. The mayor gave me the champagne cap (apparently people collect these things). And guess who got to be the queen? Me! By pure chance I happened to be given the piece of the galette with the fève in it, isn't that lucky? ;) Yeah, I'm sure they didn't do that on purpose.

As it turns out, one of the conseillers municipals (city councilor) is exactly my age. Directrice V seemed to think that he liked me, although I don't know how I'm supposed to know that since he didn't talk to me once. But I did see him at the bar on the weekend, and in my never-ending search for friends I went up and said hello. I have no idea when I became so brave in social situations, I must have reached the desperation point that caused me to ignore any possibility of embarassment in order to find other human beings with whom I can pass my time. We chatted for a little bit, but then I got dragged away to spend the rest of my evening with French rednecks. He seems very nice and smart, which is a change from the usual crowd around here (the smart part, I mean). A smart guy who's interested in politics. Does that have me written all over it or what? Unfortunately he's too short for me to date (he's maybe as tall as I am) but it would be nice to have another friend! He seems pretty shy so I'm not holding my breath, but I'm hoping I've made a good contact.

So far January has been a really good month, I'm hoping this is a good omen for the rest of the year!

4 comments:

shannon said...

And if you get the feve, you're also supposed to be the one who provides the cake the following year.

I love the galette! I've also had it was apple filling which is delicious. I feel like I might have had one other type while I was living in Aix... hmm....

We have been stuffed by it here this year... Natasha and I each have had like 5 pieces... three of which were in one day. We could have had more, but we decided to not take a piece for dinner after eating two slices each just before when the proviseur made a big deal out of us. LOL. I think I've had enough to last me all year.

Andromeda said...

Ben's brother gets it every single friggen year (at multiple galettes, as well!). So Ben bought us our own, so I had a 50/50 chance, and still didn't!! Though we did it once in elementary school (I went to a French-immersion school) and I got it!! So perhaps you get it once in your life :-/ Unless you're Ben's brother, obviously . . .

I don't think you should rule someone out for height. As long as it's not a Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes situation!

Zhu said...

I loved it as a kid! I had always thought is was somewhat celebrated everywhere in the Western world and I was surprised to see it didn´t exist in Canada (other than in French bakeries!).

au soleil levant said...

Shannon - I've heard that apple and raspberry are the other available flavors, so maybe you're thinking of raspberry? The mayor kept shoving galette down my throat, I had two HUGE pieces (like a sixth of the cake!) and then didn't need to eat any dinner.

Andromeda - you should figure out a way to steal Ben's brother's luck. Like in that Lindsay Lohan movie I never saw. I bet you'll get it next year!

Zhu - I guess it's kind of like how my mom always says "they look just like us, how can they be so different?" We just assume all Western-ish places have the same traditions.

Mmmm, might have to get a little baby galette for dessert tonight....