Nicholas L. M. Allen
Apr 5, 2023
I absolutely love poutine.
The way the salty fries combine with cheese curds and gravy is an absolutely wonderful experience. Whenever I find a new place to try poutine, it is almost necessary I try it.
When I first started college in Lethbridge, there was a place I found that solidified my standing on the superiority of poutine as a way to eat fries. It was Dylan’s Piggyback Poutinerie. They have an incredible selection of poutine, with the classic still being my favourite, but there is one there that really blew my mind. It was called “The Whole Farm” and it was amazing.
This meat filled masterpiece not only had fries, cheese and gravy, but had every meat from a barnyard animal you can imagine. It had pork, beef, chicken, lamb and possibly another as it has been a while since I’ve had it.
That is top tier poutine for me. At the bottom is a fast food restaurant you may all be familiar with; McDonald’s. The poutine I recently had from there was nothing but a disappointment and an affront to all that is good about food.
The fries? Soggy. The gravy? Cold and runny. The cheese? Partially frozen.
Nothing about that sat right with me, especially as I hadn’t even left the restaurant before eating it. It was beyond saving, so I had my burger and tried to forget the sorry excuse for food I had now thrown back in my bag.
By no means does this indicate that all fast food poutine is bad. Take A&W and Dairy Queen. They absolutely nail making poutine. The quality of the gravy is much higher and I have yet to receive one from them that is cold.
Although, I imagine there are some that would be surprised I get poutine from fast food places at all. I appreciate the convenience of having cheese curds and gravy without making a mess in my own kitchen.
The origins of poutine have been up for debate a long time. According to Canadian food researcher Sylvain Charlebois, Warwick, Quebec is the birthplace of poutine, while Drummondville’s Jean-Paul Roy is the true inventor since he was the first to sell poutine with three combined ingredients, in 1964.
Alternatively, the Oxford Companion to Cheese takes a different perspective, stating that the inventors were not the chefs who prepared the dish, but the customers who chose to add cheese curds to their fries.
According to Wikipedia, there is a very specific order to follow when preparing fries for a poutine.
To maintain the texture of the fries, the cheese curds and gravy are supposed to be added immediately before serving the dish. According to the article, the hot gravy is usually poured over room-temperature cheese curds, so they are warmed without melting completely. Thin gravy allows all the fries to be coated and the serving dish typically has some depth to act as a basket for the fries so that they retain their heat.
It is also important to control the temperature, timing, and the order in which the ingredients are added to obtain the right food textures which is an essential part of the experience when eating poutine.
When curds are unavailable, mozzarella cheese may be an acceptable alternative with shredded mozzarella being commonly used in Saskatchewan.
The strangest part about poutine is the partially unknown origins of the word itself. According to Merriam-Webster, a popular etymology is that poutine is from a Québécois slang word meaning “mess”, and that others attribute it to the English word pudding.
The one thing I am certain of is that poutine is delicious and I will never get one again from McDonald’s.