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Ingredients – La Gourmandista

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Categoría: Ingredients

Tender Cactus: The Most Popular Cactaceae from Mexico

As a child, reunions around the grill on the weekend were frequent. It could be at home with family or out with friends. Nonetheless, at least once a month, someone would host one of these gatherings. There, I would always run to get carne asada, quesadillas, and grilled spring onions. However, the one thing I would never be curious about but which generally made an appearance was the tender cactus paddle, better known as nopales or nopalitos. I think the goo that expels was something that threw me off. Now, I learn I was not alone in that road, that there are many who feel the same way. Yet, I don’t remember exactly when I let nopales become part of my diet.

By 2011, cactus paddles and I had become good friends. Happily and full of pride, I would share them with anyone who would come home to have a Mexican bite. And I just remember one person who tried them and didn’t like them. She ate them, but I could see they were not going to be her cup of tea. Now, if I compare my recipe repertoire from back then to my current one, clearly it was poor, and my options were limited back then. I would normally serve them in a salad. Aslo, one should take into consideration that finding them fresh in Europe wasn’t easy those days. So, I would normally use them in their pickled presentation or preserved in a jar.

And even when returning to my Aztec land of origin helped me learn how to incorporate this plants in many more ways, it wasn’t until we learned about the multiple health benefits offered by it that we truly embraced them and started to eat them almost on a daily basis, even when far away.

What is nopal and where does it come from?

It is true, all research points toward nopal being mexican. As a matter of fact, the name we has its origin in the nahua voice nopalli, even when the different indigenous languages have their own word for it. From the cactaceae family, the opuntia ficus-indica apparently arrived to Europe from the hand of the Spanish conquistadors who wanted to make the most of the Iberian peninsula land that was low-produce. They, as well, introduced it later to Spain and Northern Africa. I, nonetheless, don’t see any of them eating it as much.

The consumption of nopal is immensely popular all through the Mexican territory. It is however, very easily found everywhere through the continent. Thus, depending on where one is in the Americas, the name of the tender cactus paddle will change. For example, in Argentina, Paraguay, and Ecuador, it is called “tuna”, while in Uruguay and Colombia it is called “higo tuna”. In Mexico, the word “tuna” will refer exclusively to the fruit, the prickly pear. But we’ll talk about that on another entry.

Data to Learn about Nopales

Its flavor is fresh and slightly acidic. They are available between June and October. The Winter is when they will be scarce due to the cold weather and low temperatures. Hence, the most common way to eat it is on the grill, charred, and blanched. Yet, raw can also be eaten and it is delicious as well.

Among the most popular reasons to incorporate this cactaceae to one’s regime are the health benefits, I must admit. Fully charged with antioxidants such as Vitamin A, B, and C, nopales are an excellent source of dietary fiber and hydration.

I reflect again. I think I find the moment when I came to peace with nopalitos.Discovering hey were great to lose weight because of said amount of fiber and low caloric intake and learning they help control blood sugar levels as well as cholesterol and triglycerides sounds like a great deal, doesn’t it?

On Choosing, Buying, and Preparing Nopales

Everything is a lot easier than you’d think. Promise. To choose them, just select the vivid green meaty ones without any wrinkles. That is enough to guarantee freshness. Now, if you are in Mexico they can be easily found at markets and supermarket. Just be attentive to find them. Also, they will mostly be sold de-thorned, so they are clean and ready for you to rinse them and use them for your meal.

If you’re abroad, it’s a whole other story though. Specialized stores carrying Latin American products will be the best choice if not specific vendors near you. Some will sell them ready to be used, but my perception and experience say otherwise. So be careful when you clean them. But I will leave it at that for the moment, for I recently found a new tool to test and looks promising. If it’s really the last panacea, I’ll share everything about it.

Lastly, how to eat them. Well, there are some who will use them raw in juices, smoothies, and salads. In my experience, we consume them more if they are cooked. The easiest and most foolproof method might be grilling them, for the goo will disappear. Also, there are people who blanche them with different concoctions to cut the goo. A friend of mine taught me how to cook them, and this is the way I’ve done them ever since. After carefully cleaning all my paddles, I dice them and put them in a skillet. No fat, no water, nothing. Just a medium-high heat and patience. I let them cook in their own liquid -the viscous goo that will be expelled thereof. I let them dry but not stick to the pan. It’s important to not let them toast. Then, just store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator, and use as needed.

And now, do you love nopales, or will you give them a chance?

Huitlacoche: The Funky Corn

Let’s start at the very beginning… Dear Reader, Do You know what in the name of God huitlacoche or cuitlacoche is? Hey fellow Mexicans -yes, I’m seeing your faces, calm down, I know you do. But the rest of the World says ‘huit-la-WHAT?’ HUITLACOCHE, sir, CUITLACOCHE, ma’am. Let me make it easier and suggest this: weet-la-COH-cheh. That may have been easier. Now, it doesn’t matter if it is spelled one way or the other, they are both the same thing. Sounds like a tongue twister, what can I say? The common name in English is corn smut. In French it’s charbon du maïs. Both terms mean ‘burnt’, and its scientific name ustilago maydis has the Latin root ustilare that means ‘burn’ as well.

But, what is it, exactly? Well, it’s a parasite fungus that infects the corn cob when the spore sprouts. And notwithstanding how the entire World has snubbed it, I cannot affirm the Aztecs ate it since forever. As a matter of fact, there is no record that would allow us to unsolve the mystery. Nonetheless, we have treated is as a delicacy, for agriculture everywhere has used their best chemicals to avoid it from invading the crops, and in my country when farmers find it in their parcels, they get thrilled at least since my Grandmother was young. That is as far as my records go.

The Mexican Truffle -as some have named it- goes from gray to black in color. To the naked eye, one can assume it’s a mushroom. It’s soft and delicate; fragile, but with a pungent flavor and great personality, just like the black truffle. They also remind us that they come from the soil; you can even taste it. Lastly, they announce, just in case one hadn’t already figured it out, that they are part of the fungi kingdom, for they have flavors that might resemble shiitakes.

And yes, I know it sounds weird, and maybe not all Mexicans like it, but for me, this ‘gift from the gods’ has been one of the products that I have missed having access to as I’ve lived abroad. It is one of the flavors that built my palate from a very young age. My mom wasn’t a big negotiator with me when at the dinner table. She used to say she was no restaurateur. I had to eat everything I would find in my plate, so I not only learned how to eat them, but I fell in love with them.

With this in mind, I cannot stress enough what I felt when I saw fresh huitlacoche available in the United States. I confess not having searched much, but one day Facebook presented me with one of those ads one finds after the app has profiled you well. I checked on the prices and was astonished. It was SO expensive, I let it pass. Then I started craving for it, and since I already knew it could be found, I started doing some more research trying to find something LESS expensive.

At the same time, I started educating myself to know about the benefits of huitlacoche. I had no idea it was so good. It turns out the Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACYT) -the National Research Center in Mexico- has carried out studies on huitlacoche and I learned that the fungus’ genome sequence is available since 2006. Also, among the information I thought relevant was that huitlacoche is rich in antioxidants, it’s got plenty of essential amino acids such as tryptophan and lysine, and it’s high in fiber and minerals. Also, it’s got up to 16.4% protein.

Among the therapeutic features of this fungus, we know it helps the body absorb calcium, it strengthens the immune system, helps forming collagen and it could even contribute in lowering blood sugar levels and lower the risk of developing chronic or degenerative ailments such as cancer and/or cardiovascular illnesses.

In summary, if corn is gold for Meso-Americans, huitlacoche is black gold, because talking dollars and sense, the market price locally in Mexico can be 200% above that of healthy corn. In other latitudes, this can be even greater. Let me just share that my first finding was above US$60.00 per pound (454 g). You do the math.

This Summer we decided to stay once more at home. Our resting moment will be local in a few days’ time and our food will be homemade, so pampering us with this delicacy was marvelous. The peak season of huitlacoche is July and August. First, we prepared some quesadillas; later we did crêpes in a poblano pepper sauce for this ingredient has adapted itself from the simplest foods to the fanciest ones. It’s incredibly versatile, should one learn to use it wisely and delicately. It’s only disadvantage, I think, it’s that its shelf life is way too short. 2 or 3 days only. So, at home, we forgot about being courteous. We shared with people who we know like it just as we do, and with others whose hearts got conquered, and it seemed their eyeballs were going to pop out. I reflect on these lines, dear Friends, and rectify. It wasn’t just pampering, you know. I was emotional; I cried.

Watermelon

Watermelon is one of those fruits I grew up with. My mom would buy a half of it each week. It was long, juicy and it had plenty of seeds. Every time we would go to the farmers’ market I have already talked about here, our reliable merchants, René and José Luis, would cut a tiny piece for me to taste and even in the hottest days, it would be incredibly refreshing. Unfortunately, I didn’t eat it for several years, since being able to each such an amount of one sole fruit would be impossible for me while living alone. I mean, one gets tired of the same fruit all week, don’t you think? But, once we were two and this scrumptiously sweet fruit that was only available during the summer, it easily found its way back to my table. Also, I think it’s among my favorites. But let us talk about it more seriously, and not solely from the heart.

Watermelon is from the cucurbitaceae family, which means it’s related to pumpkin and zucchini. It is probably the biggest fruit we eat nowadays, since under normal conditions while in production, it can weigh up to 10 kilos or 22 pounds. It is believed to come from the Kalahari desert in Africa and that it started to be grown more than 4 thousand years ago. We currently know more than 850 varieties, but in general we classify them in those with seeds and those that are seedless. They are grown in warm and tropical weathers and in fact, the countries with the highest watermelon production in the world are Turkey, Greece, Italy, Spain, China, and Japan. Mexico, however, even when it ranks 11th globally, it is the most important vendor of watermelon to the United States.

Now, because of its seasonality, and even though I remember it at our table mostly throughout the year, it wasn’t but until I lived in Europe, when I learned that through the Summer months is when one can find it. Its peak is between July and August, but it is still available through the beginning of the Fall. In Mexico, where we have two agricultural cycles, thanks to the warmer temperatures of parts of the country, watermelon becomes available for a longer period.

And what can we say about their benefits and nutritional values? Well, this round or oblong fruit with a thick and sturdy skin has a very juicy pulp that is more than 90% water. It is rich in vitamins A, B, and C, as well as potassium, however, the antioxidant pigment that colors it is lycopene, that can even be found in lower amounts in the yellow varieties.

What I particularly love about watermelon is that it helps me feel satisfied, and that even though it’s quite sweet, it’s glycaemic charge is low thanks to the vast amount of water it contains. Therefore, this fruit can be enjoyed by almost anyone, even those with specific restrictions in their diets.

Lastly, I want to share with you what people say about how to choose a watermelon. I honestly cannot confirm these beliefs are as true as Newton’s Laws, however, I cannot deny that some of them are put in practice whenever we go looking for it to the market or the grocery store:

  • It should feel heavy for its size
  • If one hits it gently with the hand, it should sound hollow
  • It is best if it is stained yellow on the side it was resting while on the soil when ripening

So, in the form of agua fresca like my mom used to prepare it, diced with some lime juice and a little bit of sea salt, in a salad with feta cheese, or in sorbet, do not miss the chance this summer to enjoy a little bit of watermelon.

Delicious Recipes to Make with Kale this Winter

It’s been probably a couple of years since I first heard that ‘kale this’ and ‘kale that’. I have also heard that it’s beneficial for this and for that; that it is even a super food… Oh my, I now think this may be the panacea. And here I am with my long face because I have never considered myself a big fan of cabbages, even when they have been in the human diet since forever just like other greens.

It’s part of the curly cabbage family, and it is considered as a super food thanks to all the properties it has. It’s very low in calorie count and quite high in water and fiber. It also has minerals, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, vitamin C, beta-carotenes, vitamin K, vitamin B6… See what I mean? It’s not a myth, the information is available everywhere.

Among all the benefits of eating this satisfying winter crucifer is the improvement of digestion, its contribution to cardio-vascular health, as well as having healthy skin and bones. Kale also reduces the risk of cancer, helps improve glucose levels in your blood stream, which makes it an interesting alternative to control diabetes and even prevent asthma from developing.

People in the movie and television industry in the United States consider it one of their go-to foods, to the point of making it the most popular kind of cabbage since the Middle Ages. Back then, it was already well-known mainly in Europe and Asia. However, and for what I was able to investigate and have seen, kale has become immensely popular in Mexico, Spain, and France as well.

Varieties today include leaves that are completely green to others with bright colors in their stems easily found with small produce growers in local markets.

Nonetheless, the most important question rests in how to include such a nature’s jewel full of antioxidants and which is still in season in our regime. I have got to admit that after the research carried out, it embezzles the highly popular spinach from my childhood. Therefore, apart from the kale chips I already shared some days ago around here, we can also use this cabbage to prepare smoothies and juices for breakfast, include it in salads, and even as side dishes to the main course of our meals. Maybe a tasty suggestion would be to sauté them in a little bit of olive oil with some finely chopped onion and garlic and seasoned with a a dash of soy sauce emulsified with tahini and sprinkled with crispy pancetta on top.

Curiosity Fuels the Future of Global Gastronomy

Once no more mushrooms were to be cleaned during the early morning, new tasks had to be found for me. Now, I honestly don’t remember how many cases full of chanterelle mushrooms I went through during the season. I just remember I was EXTREMELY happy when it was over.

However, during my stay at the restaurant, I got a chance to work with plenty of other products. Yes, the tasks were quite simple and little if compared with what the rest of the brigade did, yet, I kept in mind that if my little hands were enough to work on this or that at such a Grande Maison, it was okay. And such a mindset was needed when my new friends the gray shallots arrived before me. Those little guys  who are cousins of the onion were another piece of work. If you are not familiar with them, they are similar to regular shallots, BUT their outer layers are so thick and sharp one cannot and should not peel them without a pairing knife. And of course, this meant sore fingers every time I worked on them.

And who would forget the little balls of foie gras? They had to be a certain weight in order for them not to be considered as ‘shit’, because they were too little and made the plate look disgusting, or too big and made the pasta explode while getting cooked at service time. I think those were between 100 and 200 on almost a daily basis… After a while I actually found out those went together with the chanterelles. To date, I still crack a smile when I think of them.

An endless amount of aromatic garnishes for stocks were also on my chopping board regularly: Carrots, shallots, onions, celery… the works. I think it was at least a couple trays per day, mostly for the fish section. And talking about them, how can I not mention crab cooking day. Vivid memories come to my mind.  Firstly, the smell is difficult to forget. I mean, I love eating fish and shellfish products, but you have got to really love cooking to not mind the smell with which your clothes and basically your whole self end up with. Then, the speed one has to work at when they come out of their court-bouillon (cooking liquid) to avoid the flesh from sticking into the shell again plus the temperature at which the crabs come out of the pot makes one develop never before imagined abilities towards hot ingredients. The fish lab becomes a production line with as many helping hands as possible to go over about three dozen crabs, to peel and extract all the flesh they hide under their very hard shells. During service, we, the interns, were responsible of finishing the flesh extraction with long toothpicks.

And yes, several other products came before me. Lettuce, brik pastry, and ducklings, just to mention a few more. But surely the one that excited me the most was the day I was given the chance to bone a dozen pigeons. The Sous-Chef handed me a tray full of them and asked me if I knew how to do the task. I said yes, but… the truth was I had never done it with a 8-inch chef’s knife. I was in a little panic to be honest. I didn’t want to ruin the product. I turned to Amélie, the only girl in the brigade who was neither an intern nor a apprentice. In a very confident way she said “just work with the tip of your blade”. It took me a good 2 hours, but they came out nicely, I think. Nonetheless, I still think I prefer a smaller boning knife for these jobs. It’s much easier.

Like I said before, my hands had the chance to work and touch quite a few products and, yes, I learned several reasons why dishes taste so differently in these fine-dining restaurants. It all starts with quality of the product surely, but also the way these products are worked on all the way through until they arrive to the dining room and served to the guests to get wowed.

Rungis, the Biggest Farmer’s Market in Europe

I pick up the thread from my previous post about markets, specifically those in Paris, and the question presented at the end regarding where all the delicacies sold there, as well as those served at the restaurants of the French capital, come from. The answer is Rungis. A place I feel anybody who loves eating good food would think of  as a one-of-a-kind market. Then, my lucky day. I found a documentary on TV about it with tons of hard facts: it is located only 7 kilometers away from Paris. It is the biggest market of the Old World, and it has industrial-sized warehouses where all the products are distributed as follows: Seafood, Meats, Dairy, Fruits and Vegetables, as well as Cut Flowers and an Administrative building. Each one of these is classified by type and merchant. It employs more than 20,000 people and about 1,200 wholesale companies in charge of distributing as fresh a product as possible to about 18 million consumers.

Of course, talking about the figures and the 8.8 million Euros marketed here in just one year (according to the 2013 numbers), is quite easy, and quickly written, but to have taken Paris’ main market from the capital all the way to this site was a piece of work I dare to call titanic, since at no given moment did provisions stop being sold. 5 years of construction work, and the ‘move of the century’ between February 27 and March 1, 1969, made it possible for Rungis to be admired by so many around the world.

The most important question – and personal quest –  for this weird Mexican-Parisian person was how to find the way to get there, and how to get to know such a place, since most of the commercial activity takes place between 2:00 and 9:00 AM, as far as I was aware. The information available to me was limited, though correct, and said that by 7:00 in the morning sales would be over, therefore making it a bit difficult to arrive there in time. Another factor was that sales would only be available for clients registered in the market’s database. Having heard this, the requirements seemed excessive plenty, so I decided to leave it at that and dream about maybe one day getting to know the place just for kicks. 

Later, when I began my culinary arts studies, someone shared with me that it was possible to take a tour there with a guide. Nonetheless, the price seemed excessive: 80€ for a lookie no touchie was an impressive price in my head. There were some who went, I myself decided to wait until the school would take me there as a ‘pedagogical field trip’.

Thus, after going through two thirds of the training, the long-awaited moment to visit the sacred market arrived. The rendez-vous was at 4:00 AM just a couple of blocks from the school. We were all there on time; some sleepier than others, some by foot, others by taxi or even Uber. It was cold, but I feel we were all anxious to see the place in question and even though we were all in coats and jackets, had we been handed a pillow and a blanket, no one would have complained. 

Upon arrival to the first warehouse we received some disposable overalls, which were legally required for hygienic reasons. It was evident that we had arrived to the place closest to the Parisian coast. There is no sea here, but there was tuna, sea bass, sea bream, octopus… I even saw some red snapper, which isn’t very common around here. In fact, I had never seen them in this area. The guide showed us the products, the chef cleared  up a few doubts, we took many photographs. The visit finished when we arrived at the end of the unit and got to see small lobster farms, where a discussion began about which kind of lobster was better: the American, or the Breton. It was clear that among the French there was no doubt that the best product came from the Hexagon. For me, the most important piece of information was that 90% of what arrives to this unit is sold within 24 hours, since most of the orders are placed in advance.

Rungis is so big that moving from one unit to the next has to be done in a four-wheeler… so, the bus driver took the group to the next stop: Meats. I literally felt I was entering a walk-in refrigerator, which the chef confirmed was in fact the case. We were taught about product tracing and how the system was implemented due to the mad cow problem at the beginning of the 21st century. The carcasses were quite impressive. The meat looked beautiful. However, I learned that most of the produce coming in from other countries within the EU arrived already cut.

The third stop took us to the fruits and vegetables. I have to confess that my Aztec side surfaced quite quickly, since I immediately started looking for avocados, limes, mangoes, anything I could think of that might arrive from my country. I smiled more than once, when my classmates pointed at fruits they called exotic, and which for me were only star fruit, pitaya, or even a piece of yellow guava. How fortunate we are, those of us who come from a place bathed by sunlight all-year round!

 It was late and we couldn’t stop by one of the pavilions that I was looking forward to the most : The Dairy. The reason was that they were in their most important hour of commerce of the day, and we wouldn’t be welcome. Thus, we went to visit the unit which is the most difficult to manage : The Flowers. This is because the florists’ trading mainly takes place electronically from the Netherlands. Last, but definitely not least, we went to the pavilion in charge of hosting the small local producers. This last pavilion was of utmost interest to me, since they are farmers mostly from the Île-de-France region, who bring their products to compete with those from any other wholesaler. The merchant who probably attracted our attention the most was the one who had exotic herbs and blooms. He was so popular that he chose to look the other way for a bit, and sold little bunches of herbs to my classmates.

As we had some time left, the chef decided to entertain the pack by letting us roam around one of the stores where the school buys supplies such as spices, oils, and vinegars. Of course there were some better behaved than others – I got some spices that would be difficult, if not impossible, to find in my country of origin, or at the local supermarkets in the city.

The tour ended at around 9:00 in the morning. We went to have a quick breakfast at one of the restaurants on the premises. We got into the bus again, and most students fell gladly asleep just as the bus started to head back to Paris. There was no doubt that everyone had looked forward to this visit, and all I can say is that I would most definitely go there again if I had the chance.

Address: 1 Rue de la Tour, 94550 Chevilly-Larue, France

To visit the market, click here

Farmers’ Markets: My most favorite shopping places in Paris and in Mexico

En mi puesto favorito de frutas y verduras del Marché d’Auteuil un sábado por la mañana

My grandmother used to live just a few blocks from a very popular market in Mexico City: The Mercado de Medellín. She and I would frequently walk around her neighborhood (Roma) and go get an avocado to complement my favorite Saturday lunch, which included a Vermicelli Soup and Potato Patties. For me, it was an adventure in itself. In my defense, I was only five years old at the most. Merchants would shout out in a very vivid way to attract their clientele, known as ‘marchanta’, offering good deals and a taste of this or that. I hated the walk -mostly because I got tired, but loved going. And even though I was pretty young, I paid close attention to what happened in each stand.

Later in life, I learned less orthodox phrases from my mother’s journeys to the market with her favorite merchants. First, there was Manuel, the butcher, to whom she always said “clean it well, Manuel, take all the fat off”. Then, there was René, the produce guy, who always heard warnings like “if it ain’t good, I’ll bring it back”… and the fruit was always at its best. Sweet, tasty.

Later on, as an adult, I seldom had the chance to go to the market, and like probably many in my generation, I ended up buying everything at the local supermarket. But hey, if I wanted real street food, then, even if it was just a pit stop, I quickly found a nonstop route to one of the different markets of the city. There is one on Río San Joaquín -one main avenue in Mexico City-, if I’m not mistaken, where one could eat the best dogfish quesadillas. Also, once in the Cuajimalpa market (another area in the city) I remember eating birria (a spicy stew, originally from the state of Jalisco, made of goat’s meat) that would raise the dead. Obviously, if we talk about quesadilla stands, I have seen plenty in my lifetime, but definitely my favorite ones are those from the Saturday morning street market on the corner of Avenida STIM and Bosques de Reforma. Yummy! My mouth is already watering.

Once, maybe twice, I remember going to the wholesale farmer’s markets for this or that, but always with my faithful guide to such places: Father. He, as my personal superhero, is the one and only connoisseur of ALL the good markets in Mexico City. It didn’t matter what we needed; he always knew which one was the best one for getting the job done: La Viga, Jamaica, Sonora… He took me to all of them.

A flower stand at the Marché des Enfants Rouges in Paris

In France, I have been responsible for discovering its markets little by little on my own. I have to say that there are some through which one only needs to walk around their stands and that is enough to fall in love with them and their products, even if they are pop-up markets. Delicious and fresh seasonal products are available, just in the same way as extraordinary regional delicacies.

If I had to choose my preferred Parisian market I would have to be inclined towards the one I am used to going, just a few meters away from my doorstep. However, the more I explore the city, the more I find. Yes, like in everything, prices will change just a bit, but each market has its own ambience.

Among those which have won my heart we can find the Marché d’Auteuil on Wednesday and Saturday mornings, the one on Rue Gros on Tuesday and Friday mornings, as well as the one on Passy, which is an established market with truly exceptional products. A little bit farther away I can find markets to which friends and teachers have taken me to, and which I have come to discover little by little; needless to say, they are all equally unique in their own way. For example, I think the Marché des Enfants Rouges on Rue de Bretagne, which dates back to 1615, is a must-see in the city, along with all of its restaurants. I think that it was here where I have had the best Moroccan-style couscous I have eaten in my life. Another one within the city limits that I believe is equally famous, given its commercial offer as well as its unbeatable prices, is the one known as the Marché d’Aligre. I remember it was there where I found about 80% of the grocery list for a dinner party I hosted for a French couple of friends who were invited to taste my Chiles en Nogada. The best news was I only paid 30€ for my list; the rest I found in the supermarket and it added up to the same amount. But back to the markets: what can I say about the one on Avenue du Président Wilson and its very chic clientele, or the one on Rue Saint Charles, where I even saw horse lunchmeat, or the 100% Organic Sunday market on Boulevard Raspail?

Don’t you agree this is wonderfully delightful?

But where do all these delicacies come from? I learned that, up until the 1960s, the greatest market was located downtown in an area known as Les Halles (in French it literally means Central Market). Now there is a horrid mall they’ve been trying to remodel since we got here in 2011, but it isn’t just ready yet, and clearly the only things one cannot find there is fresh produce.

The locals talk about a place called Rungis. They say it is a market like no other, located outside of Paris, and to enter one “only” has to have a special kind of permit. My God, this meant it would be very difficult, if not impossible just to visit the place, never mind getting to shop for groceries there.  Out of one’s mind, for sure. However, me being me, the more I hear about this place, the more I want to go, and the obstacles only make it more impossible a dare to resist. So now the goal in market shopping is to get into Rungis no matter what. Should be interesting to see how I manage.

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