I watch a fruit and vegetable shop in Paris laying out its stall. Each piece of fruit looks perfect, each vegetable shines with good health. Signs written in a distinctive French cursive style are also a work of art in themselves. This is a city where the simplest things are done with passion. Next door is a fromagerie, its door sending out a blast of ripe smells each time it opens.
The fruit and vegetable section at Rungis is also a riot of color. This is the largest part, with eight different halls, so big that bicycles are used to move around it. Boxes of strawberries, apples, carrots, garlic, melons, cherries and lots of lovely Breton blackberries are stacked everywhere, filling the tables of the best restaurants in Paris. A massive area is devoted to mushrooms and herbs, particularly thyme and parsley, reflecting the French preference for them over spices.
Even the tomatoes are an eye-opener. A wholesaler pulls out a pen-knife to slice open a perfectly-formed, bright red one. “See how thick the skin is?" he asks me. “This makes it easier to pack and transport but the inside is just water and has no flavor. It is cheap, however, so this is what you will find in most super-markets and many restaurants."
He shows me dozens of other varieties, in all shapes and colors including yellow. He cuts one of these: it is firm all the way through and the skin is thinner than the razor-edge of his knife. The taste is rich and full. Rungis encourages the preservation of as wide a variety of these and other endangered foods as possible.
Rungis is located in the southern suburbs of Paris, just outside of the city. The historic grocery store pictured here is a 10-minute walk away from the Elysée. Looking for a Truly Wonderful in this part of Paris? Here's one!