It's a new year and in France, that means it's galette des rois time. Well, actually, they've been on sale in many boulangeries and supermarkets since Toussaint, but traditionally, they should only be sold as of the New Year.
There's only one boulanger in Angoulême who follows tradition to the letter, and that's Yves Chomard. He believes that "Pas besoin de faire des bouffonneries pour bien vendre ses galettes, quand elles sont bonnes, il n'y a rien de mieux que le bouche à oreille pour faire venir le client." When a galette is good, you don't need any other trick to bring in the customers other than by word of mouth. Fair enough.
Elsewhere, however, competition is fierce, and other boulangers have been driven to maximise their sales with some turbo-charged PR. Last year, Stéphane Vergnaud in Saint-Cybard stuffed 3 galettes with a mini gold lingot worth 200€. He sold twice as many galettes as usual. He's giving his imagination a break this year so he can prepare an even better idea for next year.
Charente is definitely the place to be for desperate galette sales. Another boulanger, Frédéric Bauchaud at Soyaux has offered a second-hand Twingo in partnership with a used car garage for the purchase of a galette this year. The car will not be stuffed bit by bit into the frangipane, but I suppose will be identified through a lottery ticket, or maybe a mini porcelain Twingo?
We don't get anything so exotic down here in the south. Elsewhere, in Neubourg, near Evreux, a boulanger has stuffed little boxes into 4 galettes with the promise of a diamond to be handed over in February for each of the lucky 'rois'.
One wonders if the traditional harmless 'fight' over the normally worthless fève will become a full-blown punch up with battle stations drawn for the valuable prize. It's usually more of a kid thing, with adults letting the children 'win' the fève, put on the crown, and choose a queen or king. Bringing actual money into it spoils the innocent fun part of the tradition in my opinion. I can imagine friends falling out over the diamond box, families not speaking after an argument over who won the Twingo.
In the end, it's all about profit, PR and celebrity. As usual. The boulangers will have to add extra sugar to the frangipane to counter the bitter taste that their publicity stunts will surely engender. Traditional fun is corrupted into a mega money-making venture but in our brave new world which the French generally sneer at and blame on the Anglo-Saxon model, it's all about business... Yes, even in France.