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Mar 15, 2014

Let's Clear the Air: Rigotte de Troyet

THE STORY:

They say there's something magic in the air in Paris. Well, if so, it's black magic at the moment.
Have you heard that there's an air pollution alert in Paris? I think it hit world news, but if you were here, you would not even need to read the news to know it. Frankly, it's the first time in three years of living here that I've seen the air around me -- actually, physically seen it.


In these two different photos from my apartment, you can see the air for yourself. Just so you know, I didn't manipulate the color or brightness of these photos in any way. That weird glowy-hazy-grayness is, in fact, due to pollution. It's so bad that for this entire weekend (all day Friday through Sunday), all public transportation in Paris is free, to try to encourage people to take mass transit. And not just Paris: This windless weather that's trapping in the pollution extends west to Normandy and in a several-hour radius around the city.


Out on the streets, I see only one person wearing a little filter mask. You will all be shocked to hear that the person is not Asian. A friend who's been living here for 9 years says she's never seen anything like it, either. She takes this photo far outside of Paris, in the countryside, though you can barely see the countryside through the pollution haze.

photo by Melissa Arnold Adams

Besides seeing the air, I can feel it in my throat. The stale weather front that's contributing to it is supposed to move along in the next couple days, and though I always love a colorful sunset, I'll still be happy to see the normal air return. Or, more accurately, to not see the normal air.

THE CHEESE: Rigotte de Troyet

This little rigotte, of which very little is written and known, appears to be named after Troyet, in the foothills of the Pyrenees, where it was originally created. But now this rare little cheese is mostly made in Saint-Denis-sur-Coise (roughly outside of Lyon) in the foothills of the Alps.


Rigotte de Troyet is a mountain, farmhouse, raw cow's milk cheese (made at the Bruyas farm) that needs to be turned by hand each day as it ages on racks -- presumably so the mold can grown on all sides at once. The mold on the outside of the cheese is fabulously varied, ranging from white to green to black, and from delicately brainy to thick and furry.


Looking at the cheese, I would have thought it to be a goat cheese. But besides the sign, the information, and the cheesemonger all telling me it's a cow cheese, all I would need to do is taste one bite to know there's no goat there. The smell as soon as the little silver-dollar sized cheese is open is 100% cow, cow farm, and cow manure. There is just no mistaking it. And the taste is even more so.

It's so hard, it's actually difficult to cut through it, and the initial texture is crunchy. But the crunch melts in the mouth, into a sort of a thick, caramel texture. And then -- bam -- I am hit with the nostalgic taste of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. I can't explain this, because Kraft Mac is a) not something I like and b) not anything I recognize as real cheese. But I do like this cheese well enough, and it absolutely transports me back to childhood, despite the fact that I've never tasted it before today. Anthony, on the other hand, is not a fan of this cheese and doesn't get hit with any Kraft Dinner nostalgia.

THE CONNECTION:

Like the present air, this cheese is a hazy, dirty, grayish color. Unlike the photos of the Paris and neighboring air, which are shown to you just as taken, I do have to darken and manipulate the colors on the Rigotte, however, as it is simply too reflective and blindingly bright. So I darken the image to bring out the details. Now if only I could lighten the air quality digitally, that would be quite a photoshop program.

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