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We woke up this morning to tour Rungis, the world’s largest wholesale market. In The Sharper Your Knife, I spent nearly a chapter writing about the tour we took with our Superior Cuisine class. In that case, we got up at 4:15 a.m. in an effort to see the chaos of the fish market, which closes at 5:45 a.m. But, despite the early effort, we missed the fish.

This morning we had no such concerns. We met at the more reasonable hour of 8:30 a.m. and headed out. However, the meat and cheese pavilions were closed on Saturday, although we did get to go through two of the vast airplane hangar-sized places that house the fruit and vegetable sales and the massive building that contains the flower sales. We still got a good tour that demonstrated the vastness of scale that food commands here in France. The place was busy, with crate after crate of produce. We were guided by Phillippe, a guy who works as a consultant to help people navigate the complexities of Rungis. At present, he’s working for the country of Uganda, in an effort to get more of their stuff into the hands of the French. This is a telling thing. As it happens, a lot of produce found on Paris’ famed market streets doesn’t come from France – increasingly, it’s coming from Africa. Phillippe held up a crate of haricots vert, French-style green beans, and then showed up the box which said, “Product of Kenya.”

We were touring the flower area the day before Mother’s Day in France, so the place was relatively sold out of flowers, yet still was the largest single collection of blooms that anyone had seen.

Phillippe arranged lunch for us at one of the many eateries in the Rungis area and we were treated to a lovely early lunch of cheese, hams, perfectly ripe strawberries, lovely breads and a beautiful assortment of jams.

In the evening, we hosted everyone in our rental apartment to a quick aperitif of kir, a mixture of white Burgundy wine and a few drops of Cassis, before heading out to dinner at a small bistro on the legendary market street Rue Mouffetard. We had a simple dinner with gratins of quiche and steak frites along with some lovely bordeaux. But we had to make it an early evening. There’s an early morning departure for Rouen.

About katflinn

Kathleen Flinn is the author of "The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry," "The Kitchen Counter Cooking School" and "Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good." All are published by Viking/Penguin.

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