French Traditions

Private: From Galette des Rois to King Cake: Exploring a shared culinary heritage

La Galette des Rois means King Cake, and is a traditional celebration of the Christian holiday, Epiphany. La fève, or figurine, is placed inside the cake, and whoever finds it becomes a king for the day. ~ Nolan Ross

The bean-hiding tradition originated with the Roman Saturnalia, a festival characterized by its excess, masquerades, and loose morality (“Galette Des Rois”). ~ Avery Anderson

The custom of including a small token baked inside is common to France and New Orleans. In France it is called la fève (fava bean) after the early tradition of using an actual bean, conventionally this has taken the form of a small figurine representing baby Jesus. Modern alternatives include a variety of collectible figures, charms, and trinkets. In France, the person finding the fève is designated “king of the feast” and wears a paper crown, while American custom indicates this is who must buy the next king cake. ~ Hannah Keohane

Usually when the Galette des Rois is eaten in France the pastry is divided into equal parts so that all guest can get a slice. French people also tend to cut an extra piece of cake for any unexpected guest. ~ Marissa Geary

The one extra leftover is called ‘la part du bon Dieu’ which is reserved for an unexpected stranger. When kids are present, one of them must go under the table and direct whoever is serving to whom each slice should be given. ~ Jack Olson

This extra slice, also dubbed part du pauvre (poor man’s share), can be set aside in case a poor person passes by the home. ~ Hannah Keohane