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January 10, 2011

My current fève collection stands at three

The Fête des Rois is a French celebration that merges two ancient traditions: the Roman Pagan celebration Les Saturnales and the Christian Feast of the Epiphany.

If you want more information about the historical significance of the celebration you can go here. But the most important thing you need to know is that there is a special frangipan-filled cake, La Galette des Rois, that is eaten throughout January. Inside this cake is a fève, which used to be a bean but is now usually a small figurine. If you get the slice of galette with the fève in it, you are crowned the king. In other words, this tradition is like a game. A game you can win. And I LOVE winning.

I went to Charolles to visit my besties last Thursday at the end of what the French would call a bad, dirty day. I broke the chain of my most precious necklace that I've worn every day for three years. I had one class that never showed up and I ended up waiting for them for an entire hour. Most tragically, I received the news that in three days I would have to temporarily leave my grand palace of a two-bedroom apartment and go back to the cell-- the tiny, cramped studio I lived in when I first moved here.

We got a galette at the local bakery and I made it abundantly clear to everyone that the only way my day would turn around was if I got the fève. After dinner, Thomas hid himself under the table (traditionally the job of the youngest in the room) and directed which slice should go to whom. This is done so the person cutting the cake doesn't intentionally give the slice with the fève in it to someone-- you can often feel it with your knife as you're cutting into a piece.

As Missy started eating her slice, she chomped down on something hard. Woe! It was the fève. I was devastated. But then, oh, but then, I chomped down on something hard too! There were two fèves, and one of them was mine! I won!

Bonus: When you win you get to wear a crown.

Fève count: 1

Two nights later Missy and I were at my buddy Suzanne's house for dinner. After a scrumptious meal of raclette (melted cheese atop potatoes and charcuterie), she busted out her own homemade galette. I again informed everyone of my burning desire to win, and tried to blast magic mind powers into Suzanne's daughter Elise as she covered her eyes and doled out the pieces.

Alas, the winning piece went to Elise's boyfriend. And the fève was a really excellent one too: Hermione Granger.

He insisted on giving me the fève, and I protested, saying he won it fair and square. He countered that he was the king, and the king could do what he wanted. As one of his loyal subjects I didn't deign to argue.

Fève count: 2

Suzanne then took out her extensive fève collection. She has one box for regular fèves (movie characters, a family of ducks, Vercingétorix), and one for those that are meant for a nativity scene (Jesus in a cradle, a donkey, the town lazy bones). She's been collecting them for awhile, so she has quite a few. I was in awe, and to use a new vocabulary word: "J'ai bavé d'envie." (I drooled of envy.)

Because she is one of the most generous souls known to man, Suzanne told Missy and me we could each have one of the fèves from her collection. Missy chose another Hermione, and I chose the town lazy bones because he's lying on a couch. I really miss couches.

Fève count: 3

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