Roscón de Reyes “Mm, look what I’ve bought,” says Francisco every January 5, thrusting under my nose a giant ring-shaped bun with a few bits of red and green candied peel stuck on top and a plastic toy hidden somewhere inside for me to break a tooth on. I fail to show much enthusiasm . ”But this one’s got loads of cream in it,” heraves. Ultra-sweet, spray-on cream. It’s an improvement, I suppose, but give me Christmas cake any day (“O yuck,” protest my Spanish friends, so empalagoso. Sickly? Well, I suppose it is). We don’t really need to buy one, a roscón de reyes, that is. At the local village church on January 5th, after they’ve given out presents to all the kids and we’ve all taken part in a nearly-every-ticket-a-winner raffle, the roscones de reyes are cut up and given out and fought over. There’s always plenty for everyone. Or there has been up to now. Can the nata survive the crisis?
In Catalunya, Valerie tells me, the traditional tortell de reis comes with a cardboard crown and contains a broad bean – una fava. The lucky (toothless) person who finds it is proclaimed Bean King and gets to wear the crown. And also has the royal duty of reimbursing whoever shelled out on the cake. Nowadays, the tortell also contains a bean-sized ceramic king, the finder of which is, logically, crowned King, while the fava-finder has to pay. Apparently, once upon a time ‘Twelfth Night’ cakes’ were popular in England, too. Only they were rich and dark and thickly iced and contained a lucky pea as well as a bean.