Nov 21, 2013

Almost Antique Animals: Bethmale


There are not one but two taxidermy shops right by Pippa's elementary school. Even after two years in Paris, and with her new middle school big-girl status, Gigi still refuses to look in the windows, much less the stores. So I guess I won't be taking her by Aurouze, which Anthony and I happened upon recently while walking through the 1st arrondissement.

With twenty gorgeous nearly-antique dead sewer rats hanging in the window from the same number of nearly-antique traps, it's quite a sight to behold. These are 91-year old dead rats,
and I know this almost-precisely because the sign proudly proclaims, "Captured around 1925 at Les Halles."

You can read all about it in Memoires d'un Rat des Halles (a title that really doesn't seem worth translating into English...).


It's not all rats. Check out the mongooses. The mongeese. The strange beaver, ferrety things. The dead stuffed rodents.

Whether you need to get rid of beavers, ferrets, rats, mice, mosquitos, ants, cockroaches, fleas, bedbugs, pigeons, termites, or slugs from your Paris apartment, Aurouze is your place. As advertised, they have specialized in the Destruction of Nuisance Animals since 1872, with signs announcing the manufacture of all sorts of traps. I personally would like one that snares enthusiastic literary agents.

In case looking at these dead animals, traps, and poisons gets your salivary glands pumping, you can always step next door to the artisan boulanger (baker) for lovely breads and pastries.

THE CHEESE: Bethmale
Bethmale is a semi-hard cheese that is semi-rubbery and semi-liked by my family. It's a mild cheese -- considered the mildest of the Pyrénées"hard" cheeses, in fact -- so it's hard to hate too much, but hard to get too excited over, either. My cheese encyclopedia says that it "smells of the cellar," but I think it doesn't smell strongly enough of the cellar. I feel like we should be sophisticated enough cheese-lovers to appreciate the subtle undertones, but perhaps we're just in the mood for something with more pizzazz. Bethmale can be made from raw or pasteurized cow's milk; the one we try is unpasteurized.
Even older than the stuffed rats, the cheese has been around since at least the 12th century, as it is said that King Louis VI used to enjoy it when he passed through the Couserans region of the Pyrénées. It can also sometimes be called Tomme de Couserans. It looks like the cheese of a storybook-mouse's dreams -- a plump wheel riddled with ragged holes.

Since we're not super excited about finishing it, it seems like the perfect cheese to put in the perfect mouse-trap. (But we don't have any mice. Rats!)


  1. Positive site, where did u come up with the information on this posting?I have read a few of the articles on your website now, and I really like your style. Thanks a million and please keep up the effective work. CageHeaven bird cage

    1. Mostly by living in Paris and asking questions (and reading signs) at the places in question. I suspect I ask a lot of questions that don't normally get asked, because people often seem a little surprised and entertained. Also, I do research online and talk to cheesemakers. Thanks for the nice feedback!


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