Quotes

Feb 12, 2015

Get Stuffed: Bûche Saint-Loup

THE STORY:

About the only place you'll see a greater concentration of stuffed animals than in a 5-year old's bedroom is in the windows of Paris' shops. But the ones in Paris are real stuffed animals. Well, real animals, stuffed.


The fine specimen above is one of a pair that raise a lot of questions: Why does one of them have eagle wings? Why are they wearing fancy necklaces? How does that anklet stay on when the wolf runs? You're assuming it's because they are guarding a jewelry store. But no. They are standing post outside a café.


Do the owners think this will draw people in for a hot cup? It appears to be working.


When we first moved to Paris, there were two taxidermy stores just within a one block radius of Pippa's school. When Gigi was a student there, she would very purposefully avert her eyes when we passed. Much too creepy for her. I can't say that after three years of living here, she finds them less disgusting on principal, but I can say that by now she doesn't even notice them. They've simply become part of the Paris backdrop that she considers home.


The taxidermy shops are mentioned in Adam Gopnik's classic book, Paris to the Moon, and more recently in passing in a great New York Times op-ed piece by Pamela Druckerman about the Charlie Hebdo attack and solidarity march. We American ex-pat writers simply cannot help commenting on it, no matter what the circumstances. I mean, from an American perspective, what the heck is up with all this taxidermy?!

 

I recently read an interview with Didier Quod, who's been a taxidermist in Saint-Maigrin for over 30 years. He is, in fact, the last taxidermist in Saint-Maigrin. The article states this like it's an amazing statistic -- only one left! Considering that it's a city of 560 inhabitants, I find it more incredible that it ever supported more than one.

Quod's father was a hunter, as are most of his clients, though I suspect there are Paris novelty, taxidermy, museums, and consumer goods shops that buy his goods for non-hunting reasons, as well. Some people even stuff their dead pets. The French do famously love their dogs. 

This restaurant in the heart of the Latin Quarter has decided that nothing will entice you to eat cheese fondue like a stuffed dead donkey looking life-like, eating his hay in the entry.

 

While I wouldn't exactly call it a thriving industry, as of 2007, the SNTF, Syndicat des Naturalistes Taxidermistes de France, listed 300 member taxidermists. Their average annual income was 15,000€, with 80 of them listed as full time (presumably those that brought the average up) and the rest having other sources of income also (presumably those that brought the average down).

The head of an animal takes 12-15 hours of work, in steps over several days. For a whole animal, it can be more than 30 hours, depending on the size. So, they certainly wouldn't have a ton of extra time to do work, unless, of course, there weren't many animals to stuff. This would certainly make the animals happy.


If you do see crazed, happy looking taxidermied animals, especially anthropomorphized ones who are dressed up and doing science experiments, you can assume they're old specimens. These century-old stuffed guys are at the Carnavalet, the museum of Paris' history.


So you know, the taxidermists (and, I presume purchasers of taxidermy) are not total animals: Only 10% of animal species are free to be "naturalized", as they say, meaning brought into the country, even dead, even stuffed. The other 90% are subject to approval from the Minister of the Environment, and depend on the species and purpose (presumably, a museum would have a better shot at getting approval for a rare species, say, than just some avid big-game hunter), and of these, there are 3500 species that are just completely off-limits for all.

 

You wouldn't think that taxidermy would touch my daily life in Paris, but it's shockingly ubiquitous. I know just where to go for mouse traps thanks to having passed this display, at the Aurouze store, many times in the Marais.

 

Still, time marches on (even if these animals don't), and taxidermy seems to be a dying business (oh, the bad puns just keep on coming). Numbers do seem to be dwindling. When I go out this afternoon to take a photo of the taxidermy shop across from the elementary school, I realize it has been turned into a fancy paper store. So I walk further, around the corner, to the second one on Boulevard Saint Germain and learn that it now sells fancy kitchen cabinets.

THE CHEESE: Bûche Saint-Loup

Bûche Saint-Loup is a goat cheese made in the Deux-Sèvres department in the region of Poitou-Charentes. When it comes to goat cheese, that's endorsement enough for me.


This is a pasteurized cheese -- something of a more industrial version of a Sainte-Maure de Touraine, which is made in the neighboring region Centre. Even pasteurized, however, it's a fine, lovely goat cheese -- creamy, salty, and tangy. The industrial nature of it shows most in the crust, which is a thicker, more even white mold than a farmhouse or artisanal version would be. Still edible, still fine, and especially when one is starved.


THE CONNECTION:

Like this particular stuffed animal found at the Stern Caffé (yes, two Fs, Italian-style) in the Passage des Panorama in the 2nd arrondissement, this cheese is part wolf, at least in name. What other cheese could represent the wolfgle (wolf-eagle) better than a goalf (goat-wolf)?


Coincidentally, I had a vague idea to hold on to this cheese to use with a post about the expression "une faim de loup" -- almost literally "hungry like a wolf". Ironically, the round we eat is somewhere on the road during a trip in Burgundy, when we are starved beyond belief at just the time when virtually every store, boulangerie, patisserie, and every other "...rie" is closed for their approximately three-hour lunch break. We finally find an emergency mini-mart, selling this cheese among other things. We are ravenous -- "faim de loup" as it were and eat this cheese as part of a mini-mart picnic in a lovely pastoral location (note: the cheese platter leaves something to be desired).


Since it's the French expression for when you're "starved", "avoir une faim de loup" (being hungry like a wolf) is just the thing you'd say, in fact, when you want to get stuffed.

2 comments :

  1. Replies
    1. Thanks for pointing out the error. I just went and corrected it in the text. But actually (and oddly), I see it's actually "une faim de loup" -- feminine.

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