Paris – Been There
Embracing the culinary seasons in Paris
I have a lesson in freshness at the fish hall in Rungis, a southern suburbs of Paris, where white polystyrene boxes of seafood are stacked from one end of the hall to the other.
Rungis covers an area larger than Monaco and has its own train station and highway exit, eight hotels and 21 restaurants, banks, a hairdresser and post office. It employs almost 12,000 people and supplies at least 20 million consumers with food.
“Most of the produce here is French," says Philippe, a chef who comes here regularly to source new produce for recipe ideas and maintain links with his suppliers. “Oysters from Île d’Oléron, lobster from Brittany, trout from the Pays-Basque, line-fished bass and turbot from the Atlantic coastline.” The turbot he is buying was caught the previous morning and shipped overnight; eaten for lunch in his restaurant in central Paris, it will have been out of the water little more than 24 hours. There are buyers here from all over Europe and produce is exported as far at the US. I do spot some foreign imports, though: Spanish mussels, prawns from Madagascar.
Is French produce better? “Well, I am French, so I think so,” says Philippe, laughing. “But it’s certainly fresher, because it has not traveled so far, and it’s seasonal. You should eat food that is in season and that recognizes the weather is different.” Picking up some lobster, Philippe demonstrates its freshness: it is still lively and its tail springs back into a curve when straightened out.