Ask a non-Canadian if they’ve ever tried poutine and you may be rewarded with nothing more than a puzzled expression in return. Not well-known outside of Canada, this French-Canadian fast food was invented in the province of Quebec in the 1950’s. Several towns lay claim to being the birthplace of poutine and although there are various contenders, it’s not known exactly where or who first blessed Canadians with this culinary delight.
A classic poutine is a thing of beauty for poutine purists and is made from thick, hand-cut, golden brown French fries topped with fresh cheese curds and then smothered with piping hot velouté or gravy. It may not be the most visually appealing of dishes, but its distinctiveness ensures that it stands out as the national dish of a country which is not exactly world-renowned for its cuisine.
After its invention, poutine didn’t enjoy the same level of popularity that it basks in today. It was considered to be a low-class dish, enjoyed mainly by rural inhabitants who lacked the refined tastes of their cosmopolitan counterparts. For some Québécois, it was even an embarrassment to be known to eat poutine, but as it was so common in Quebec, it was incomprehensible that anyone could deny having tried it.
You certainly don’t need to be embarrassed to try poutine, but keep these tips in mind:
- Have an open mind and be as traditional or as non-traditional as you like. La Banquise in Montreal, Quebec offers everything from ‘La Classique’, a cheese curds and gravy poutine to ‘La T-Rex’, a meat-lovers poutine topped with ground beef, pepperoni, bacon, and hot dog sausages.
- Use a fork and knife. Poutine may be fast food but you’ll be left with a mess if you try to tackle this dish with your fingers.
- Listen to the cheese curds squeaking. No, really, they do squeak. You may not notice it if they’re melting under hot gravy, but fresh cheese curds actually squeak when you eat them.
- Don’t be ashamed to finish everything on your plate. It may look like it will give you a heart attack, but it’s delicious and there’s no shame in indulging now and then.
- Poutine is great when washed down with a cold beer and is the perfect fast food to have after a night of too many beers.
While poutine’s popularity has well and truly spread across Canada, it may take a little more effort to convince the rest of the world. But once you try it, you too will be saying “Vive la poutine!”