* Between The Sea (the Med) and The Alps -- {Pronounce: ontruh la mair eh lay zalp}

Monday, January 12, 2015

Our mayor's best wishes for 2015

2015 Galette 01

January is always fun in France in general, our village in particular for us.  The town sponsors an open invitation to everybody to participate together in sharing the Galette des Roi, or King's Cake in English, as part of the New Year's and Epiphany celebrations. 

The French eat it all month long; our night out with the village was last Friday.  You might enjoy how it works, at least in our current world.

As the whole world is aware, France started off the year in a pretty sad and disastrous way.  While the actual events happened miles away from here in Paris, the whole country felt the pain.  To show solidarity, the village offered a candle shrine, and a local artist, a personal acquaintance of ours, designed a symbolic pencil.  We watched on live TV the take-down in Paris just before leaving for our local event, so there was a small sense of relief overall that this particular crisis had come to an end.

2015 Galette 02
The memorial posters
2015 Galette 03
The homage candles

(For those who know Pierre, he gained a granddaughter, Daphné, at the exact same time as the Vincennes market hostages were being killed.  Life does indeed go on.)

Nothing is ever free, the price for sharing a municipal galette is getting to listen to a lot of local political blah blah.  The mayor usually brags about all they got done the year before and then all the projects scheduled for the new year.  The mayors from the surrounding villages are always present, as are the top-dog law enforcement and fire department officials for the whole region.  Plus, we must not forget all the elected village officials, many of whom are also personal acquaintances, as we try to participate in a number of local activities. 

2015 Galette 04
The outside support team
2015 Galette 05
The local village officials

I ended up having an unusual fun experience.  Notice the young "kid" in uniform in the middle of the above left photo.  While he's younger than my own youngest kid, he was the French equivalent of a Navy Seal, worked with US forces in Afghanistan, and wears US-given medals.  He's in charge of several large local Gendarmerie (law enforcement under the military) offices.  I ended up in a conversation with him afterwards, then he continued more chatting most of the evening.  Apparently, he really likes Americans!

We exchanged names during the evening, as I didn't remember his introduction, and I was surprised he gave me, a stranger, his first name, despite his position.  As he was leaving at the end of the evening, I happened to be right there, as I was waiting to ask our mayor he was talking with a question.  He shook my hand and said my name, so I answered back with his, rather than it being the more correct Madame/Commandant exchange.  The stunned looks of surprise on the faces of the mayor and the nearby group of very proper, old school, correct elderly French women was absolutely priceless!

When the locals don't participate in community events, the community dies.  I think the town was very pleased with the amount of turnout this year.  The main reception room of the local hotel provided some classy, pretty ambiance.

2015 Galette 06
The mayor and her entourage
2015 Galette 07
The community they serve

2015 Galette 08
The hotel owner and a guest
2015 Galette 09
At your service, Messieurs Dames

Finally, it was time to party (and get chummy with Commandants).  On offer were several kinds of galettes, several kinds of wine, juice, and water. 

Typically, the galette is served around the country with a French sparkling cider, which may have also been available.  (I was learning all about the French military structure instead of partaking!)

2015 Galette 10
A traditional frangipani galette

We learned all about the galette when we first arrived in Paris many years ago.  It is served in celebration of Ephiphany, January 6, in honor of the Wise Men. 

My French neighbor ended up hosting a galette afternoon the first Sunday of January for several years, rather like an afternoon tea.  So far we haven't experienced a personal gathering down here, but I have even made my own (thanks to my son teaching me they weren't hard to do). 

The traditional galette is made with frangipani, an almond filling, and puff pastry.  There is a little token baked in, called a feve (a large dried bean, the historical token), and whoever gets the feve gets crowned the king.  While cheap galettes have cheap feves baked in, the expensive ones have created some real collector's items.  We have our own collection of the nicer ones from over the years; we have apparently become French!

2015 Galette 11
A colorful Provençal brioche

Then we learned that there is a second version popular in the south.  It's basically a brioche, a sweet bread, covered with lots of dried fruit and sugar crystals.  Of course, it also has a feve baked inside. 

While I hear many locals prefer the Provençal brioche style, we still prefer the frangipani version.  Seeing none of those left over but a number of brioche slices (but not many!), perhaps the French also prefer almonds.

I do admit that the Provençal version is much prettier and brighter, but the sunnier south is brighter in everything than the drearier north.

I thought you might enjoy the pretty settings the hotel management created for our event, but  I expect they are actually leftover Christmas décor.

2015 Galette 12
So tasty, is anybody king (or queen)?

Overall, it was a rather fun evening out, despite the national anguish felt from the week's tragedies.  As you can see, the town folk enjoy this national tradition, especially in such a pretty environment. 

Although this whole municipal soirée is over, we get to look forward to another one at the end of the month, when the various associations, of which our dance class is part, offer another one (actually during our class time!) just for us.


  1. Looks like the south has their version of our fruitcake!

  2. The only similarity I see between the Provençal brioche and the American (and perhaps Brit) fruitcake in either taste or texture is the use of candied fruit. Otherwise, the one does not remind me of the other once a bite is taken, lol.

  3. I was wondering what you thought of the tragedy - Je Suis Charley - I suspect that was devastating. Are you relieved you no longer live in Paris? What a nice event.


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