I’ve just returned from a trip to Vancouver to visit a very health conscious friend. I ate out a lot, almost every day – lots of sushi, some delicious raw food and some very good Mexican. What I was really in search of though, was the national dish of Canada – poutine.
What is Poutine?
Poutine sounds much more exotic than it is. It’s a plate of chips with gravy and cheese curds. The chips or more correctly, fries, should be fairly thin and crisp on the outside giving way to a soft fluffy interior. The fries are then topped with a thinnish meat gravy poured over cheese curds which are similar to mozzarella, but more tangy in flavour. At its best, the gravy is made from a real meat stock and the cheese curds are fresh.
Where does Poutine originate from?
It is thought to have originated in Quebec and can be found today all over Canada, quite commonly and unsurprisingly in greasy spoon establishments. I ate this long awaited plate of food in a hotel restaurant bar in Whitehorse in the Yukon. It was long awaited because it was after 9.00 pm at the end of a day of travelling from Vancouver, and long awaited because it was the first place I came across it, and my only chance, since “The Grateful Spud” was the only establishment that was open in Whitehorse (more accurately described as a one rather than a two horse town) at that time of night in January.
Chips, cheese and gravy
Numerous people have laid claim to its invention but the exact origin is still in doubt. One of the most popular tales concerns a restaurateur called Fernace Lachance of the Café Ideal, who, when asked to put a handful of cheese curds over some fries by a regular, said “ça va faire une maudite poutine” (“it will make a damn mess”). The sauce was allegedly added at a later date, to keep the fries warm. On balance, I’d have to agree with Monsieur Lachance, it is a right mess.