“Be a King / Queen for a day!” – an utterly irresistible invitation if I ever heard one. And it involved some golden-looking puff pastry called “galette des rois.” So lured, I followed the seductive whisper from the homepage to the actual physical home of the Galeries Lafayette Berlin. None too soon, I stood before a small improvised counter in their gourmet section, bountifully laden with all manners of gleaming galettes: marzipan, chocolate and hazelnut, or apple flavour, all beckoned equally. As I reached out to the tasting tray to enjoy a free sample of the latter, a trio of blushing girls asked the madame for assistance. After some confusion, it turned out that they were not looking for a French “galette” but for the rhyming German “toilette”, proving indubitably that sometimes life is sillier than fiction.
In any case, it wasn’t long before I was the pround owner of a galette au pommes, which I proceeded to scoff down with coffee and glee. Oh bless its yummy fluffy pastry nature! Soon this much (little) was left:
Feeling generous, I decided to share the rest with Mr. B. So he had a slice, and I had a slice… and spotted something black peeking out from mine. Now, you, gentle reader, might have recoiled at the sight, and thrown away the piece of galette in disgust. You might have thought: “Bug!” or somesuch abomination. Not I! My first (and only) thought was: hmm… maybe there’s a raisin in there… and proceeded to joyfully bite in. But hark! My teeth encountered a hard obstacle – one end quite white and ceramic and… “Oh God!” I thought rapidly. “Someone’s false teeth?” But no. It was long and thin and … “Some object they used for cake baking? And dropped in by mistake?” I was getting pretty nauseous by this point, so I quickly spit it out…
… and discovered it was a figurine of a stout little man. Dressed in yellow:
“Oooohhh” I cooed in total incomprehension. Mr. B looked at me like I had lost all my marbles. “Uhm… what do you think it is?” we stared at each other. “He’s not the king, that’s for sure” he offered decisively. “Maybe he’s… a citizen” I mused. “Maybe it’s a game, and there are others hidden in the other galettes. Like, his people. His wife …. His horse…. Maybe a castle!” Mr. B was by this time snickering and I’m pretty sure I heard “a castle” repeated in a disrespectful tone. “Or maybe I am special. And I will get a special prize from the Galeries for finding the little man. Like a 500 Euro prize!” I was getting more and more excited about this. “I must know what it all means!” So of course, I went to check it out online.
This is what I found out: that the galettes are traditionally eaten in France around the beginning of January in honour of the three Mage Kings and the epiphany (hence the “rois” appelation). That there are different types and fillings customary in different regions of France. That master pattisiers from places such as Ladurée and Lenôtre come up with most original and mouth-watering interpretations of this dessert. That there’s a loooooooooooong history behind the whole thing And while they were even served at the table of Louis XIV, after the revolution the whole monarchy-symbolism thing has gone a bit sour… but you can read all about it somewhere else. Well I guess the connection to royalty is still represented by the fact that the galettes come with a shiny golden paper crown. This I tried to place around the pastry and then on top but couldn’t get to retain shape so I sheepishly ended up throwing away.
But most importantly, that traditionally a figurine of baby Jesus was hidden inside – and whoever found it had mysterious responsibilities – never got to reading that far, so if anyone ever finds out exactly what those responsibilities might be, do let me know. Some time ago though, someone decided to switch baby Jesus to some other theme-based figurines… Including smurfs and geese, according to my in-depth research. Anyhow, to cut a long story short, there’s nothing unsual about finding such trinkets – called fèves – in a galette. For those of you who play Trivial Pursuit, there’s even a name for the impetus to collect them: “favophilie“. And no, sadly it does not come with a prize from Galeries Lafayette.