My last post mentioned a life-threatening pie I had in Paris.
It was in 2002. I just finished touring the military museum and had to join my tour group at La Fayette before they go to Switzerland. With no time for a proper lunch, I grabbed what I believed was a meat pie. A lady at the bakery shot me a weird smile. I didn’t know why, until much later.
Turned out it wasn’t a meat pie. It had a dense, sweet filling similar to the Chinese lao po bing (“wife cake”) and was very soft. So imagine my surprise when my teeth slammed on something rock-hard. I probed with my tongue and, using a tissue, I pulled this guy from my mouth:
My first thought was it must be some French version of Kinder Surprise egg. Wait, what if I had unknowingly won a 1-million euro lucky draw and that man was the ticket to my prize? But it was neither. The pie (well, not exactly a pie) was a galette des Rois, or “King Cake”. According to Wikipedia:
“La galette des Rois”, gâteau des Rois or french king cake is a cake celebrating the Epiphany in France and traditionally sold and consumed a few days before and after this date.
Tradition holds that the cake is “to draw the kings” to the Epiphany. A trinket, “la fève”, which can represent anything from a car to a cartoon character, is hidden in the cake and the person who finds it in their slice becomes king for the day and will have to offer the next cake.
So I was king, but close to becoming a dead king.
You see, a person familiar with the tradition would have expected the trinket and therefore eaten carefully, or may even remove it before eating. I, however, was devouring the cake since I was so hungry. That little guy could’ve easily passed detection and choked me to a royal death.
They said Paris will take your breath away. It almost did.