At last the unsold Galettes des Rois that filled the shops at the beginning of January for Twelfth Night celebrations have reached their sell-by dates and are being flogged off cheap. Time for the Dagg family to swoop! We love these frangipane pies, and I always do a homemade one for the day itself. The shop ones, retailing at around the €8 mark are definitely pricey. OK, they come with a cardboard crown and a fève (literally bean and this is what was used originally, but now they are actually a ceramic charm) in them, but that’s still over the top.
Not any more. They’re just a couple of euros now and definitely a bargain. I can add to my fève collection, and do a spot of low-key favophilie.
Favophilie (sometimes fabophilie) is the activity of collecting the fèves from Galettes des Rois. Seasoned favophiles are after rare ones, or are trying to build up whole series of special edition ones. Either way, they’re probably slightly sad people.
The tradition of a single fève in festive cakes began in the 13th century in France. Cakes containing two fèves appeared later, one was black and one was white signifying ‘king’ and ‘queen’ respectively. But come the Revolution there could be no more religious based fun, so Twelfth Night became the sans culottes (without trousers) festival, and the Galette des Rois became the Galette d’égalité, still with fèves. Even that gateau was banned on and off for a while. But the tradition persevered.
The current trend of porcelain fèves (with a brief eruption of plastic ones in the 1960s and 1970s) began in Germany in 1874. Porcelain swimmers were the first models. Twenty years later, fèves of all sorts were being produced. Different themes predominated at different times – santons (saints), doves, angels, professions and so on. These days cartoon and film characters tend to prevail, which is rather naff but clearly a good selling point. This year I’ve gained a Harry Potter bust and a truly awful mini-plaque of Titeuf, that strange cartoon guy with the yellow hair. My other less classy fèves include Indiana Jones and Pirates of the Caribbean momentoes.
I do have some nice ones including a sheep that Rors brought home from school on Tuesday. Clearly the caterer at his school is like me and buys in bargain food since the kids got a Galette des Rois for pudding out of the blue. Rors came up trumps when it was dished up and got the fève, so he also got the cardboard crown. He wore it for our 2.5 km walk home and I think he was disappointed that no-one else got to see him. We rarely come across anyone during our walks.
There are some lovely fèves out there – this is one set I saw on a website. It’s a collection of the 13 desserts served on Christmas Eve in Provence. You can get animals (I found a set of pandas and koalas aka world’s dopiest animals!), flowers, trees, Disney, Hello Kitty, symbols, letters, books, playing cards – the list is endless these days. Look up fève on eBay and see what comes up. A lot are claimed to be rare or ancien – although probably take that with a pinch of salt! But there are some cute and clever ones to be had.
Actually, I think I’m beginning to see how you can get drawn into favophilie …