As consumers, we increasingly ask about the provenance of our meat and fish. Less so about our fruit and vegby Wendell Steavenson / January 24, 2018 / Leave a comment
Published in February 2018 issue of Prospect Magazine
I got up at 3am on a wet December morning in Paris, and walked down the deserted streets to meet Marwan Karouia who was going to take me to Rungis, the largest wholesale market for fresh food in the world. Marwan’s family hails from a village in the south of Tunisia, and runs my local greengrocer. “You will recognise our truck by all the graffiti,” his father Fathi told me.
Marwan is tall with a certain efficient speed about his movements. In the winter he goes to Rungis three times a week; in the summer the produce is more fragile in the heat and he goes more often. We drove through the entrance gates (visitors are welcome, but cannot purchase anything without a wholesaler pass) and found a parking space adjacent to one of the large open air halls. “There are 20 of these halls just for fruit and vegetables.” Marwan told me. “Then there is a whole area for meat, and others for fish, cheese and charcuterie. Rungis is a city. It’s better to get here early because otherwise there is nothing left to buy; the rarer things, like watercress, sell out early.”
The first hall we went into was for producers from the region around Paris. There was a stall selling truffles at around €1,000 a kilo. Roots and brassicas: potatoes, sacks of walnuts, beetroot, parsnip, chervil root, cabbages, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts. The fruit was limited to apples and pears. One stall specialised in salad greens and had an impressive array of trendy leaves: pink spotted lettuce, black curly kale and dandelion. I bought some oyster leaves which I had never tried before; blue green leaves, succulent, crunchy, with a subtle marine taste of oyster.