Jan Norris: Food and Florida

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Epiphany: 3 Kings’ Day – Cake and Lamb’s Wool, Women and Parades

January 5th, 2009 · No Comments

Tomorrow, Jan. 6, 2009, is Epiphany — the 12th Day of Christmas. In the Christian religion, it marks the visit of the Magi – Caspar, Melchoir and Balthazar – the three kings who came, the Bible says, to bring gold, incense and myrrh to the newborn babe. In some nativity displays the Wise Men have either been missing from the creche, or are placed far away at the beginning of the season, but move ever closer, and finally, around the cradle on Twelfth Night. 

A Sweet Tradition

In France, Epiphany is celebrated with a family gathering that features the Galette du Rois — cake of kings, or King’s Cake. I love the tradition that accompanies the serving of the cake, into which is baked a tiny porcelain figurine — sometimes a baby, but today, any small item (even a bean).

Thomas, the French baker at Le Petit Pain in Lantana, FL, explained the cake and how it’s eaten.

Gallete du rois

Galette du rois

“It’s a puff pastry, top and bottom,” he said. “The filling is one-third custard, and two-thirds almond cream.” This is known as frangipane – similar to a marzipan, but lighter.

The round cake is baked with a small trinket inside, he says. He pulled out a box of beautifully painted porcelain birds no larger than a quarter. One would be baked

into each galette he makes for tomorrow.

“The tradition is, the youngest one in the family goes under the table. The cake is then cut into the number of pieces you have as guests. The child under the table tells the mother who gets each piece as she slices — the child can’t see the slice, so they don’t know gets the charm.”

A gold paper crown is given to the one who receives the piece of cake with the charm inside — and they are “king” for the day.

Thomas says the cake, while traditional for Epiphany, is usually sold and served the Sunday before Epiphany and eaten after church. “My son was the king this year,” he said, laughing. His 3-year-old son and wife live in Marseille and he travels to see them.

“Of course, the cake is so good, many people eat it for 12 days. My grandparents called and said they had been eating it for a week now,” he said. “It’s very good.”

(He will be selling two sizes of galette du rois — the small, serving up to five, is $14.99 and the large, for up to eight or nine, is $18.99.)

The Quaff — Lamb’s Wool

In England, they eat a type of layered fruitcake for Epiphany. Then, after the blessing of the house by special chalk or pencil, they drink a cup of punch called Lamb’s Wool — a cider or sweet ale made with spices and poured over a bowl of roasted apples. Some farmers would bless their apple trees this day,  by spilling a little of the ale around the roots.

A Caribbean Party

The Puerto Ricans in South Florida, along with Cubans, Bahamians, Panamanians, Dominicans, West Indians, and others from around the Caribbean will celebrate Three Kings Day with a huge parade, and big party that involves full-blown street dancing and eating.

Puerto Ricans eat their national dish — mofongo. It’s mashed plantains, made with sofrito (garlic, olive oil, chopped onions sometimes, or herbs), formed into balls or tall mounds, stuffed with a number of fillings such as chicken, beans, shredded pork or shrimp. A broth is served around it – usually made with some tomatoes and a little pepper. It’s a hearty a delicious dish.

Irish Women’s Little Christmas

Epiphany is called Little Christmas (Nollaig na mBan)  in Ireland, and particularly in County Cork, the women celebrate. It’s the day supposedly their spouses give them the day off from housekeeping and cooking. The pubs are filled with women going out with their girlfriends and partying to celebrate this day of freedom.

Tags: Today in the World of Food

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