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Hmmm……….Poutine……..nothing can be finer in a Montréal diner.
Poutine is the quintessential French-Canadian comfort food. Traditionally the dish consists of French fries topped with fresh cheese curds and covered with warm brown gravy. The curds’ freshness is important as it makes them soft in the warm fries, without completely melting.
The dish originated in rural Quebec in the late 1950s and is now popular all over the country. Several Quebecois communities claim to be the origin of poutine, including Drummondville, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, and Victoriaville. The most popular tale is the one of Fernand Lachance, from Warwick, Quebec, which claims that poutine was invented in 1957, when a customer ordered fries while waiting for his cheese curds from the Kingsey cheese factory in Kingsey Falls (now in Warwick and bought by Saputo). Lachance is said to have exclaimed “ça va faire une maudite poutine” (“it will make a hell of a mess”), hence the name. The gravy was allegedly added later, to keep the fries warm longer. Linguists have found no occurrence of the word poutine with this meaning earlier than 1978.
There are many variations of poutine. A common variation, Italian poutine, substitutes gravy with “spaghetti sauce” (a thick tomato and ground beef sauce, roughly like Bolognese sauce), while another variation includes sausage slices. Greek poutine consists of shoestring fries topped with feta cheese and a warm Mediterranean vinaigrette or simple gravy.
Poutine even has a political side…In a segment on the television series “This Hour has 22 Minutes” during the 2000 USA election campaign, Rick Mercer convinced then-Governor of Texas George W. Bush that Canada’s Prime Minister, Jean Chrétien, was named Jean Poutine and that he was supporting Bush’s candidacy. A few years later when Bush made his first official visit to Canada, he joked during a speech, “There’s a prominent citizen who endorsed me in the 2000 election, and I wanted a chance to finally thank him for that endorsement. I was hoping to meet Jean Poutine.” The remark was met with laughter and applause.