In Canada, one of the most prominent dishes you will find is the poutine. Whether you order one at a casual franchise Ben et Florentine restaurant or you like to make your own, this comfort food is as scrumptious as it is simple. In case you have never had the pleasure, the classic Canadian poutine consists of twice-fried julienned potatoes, cheese curds, and brown gravy. But while everyone agrees that the dish is exquisitely exceptional—and what the ingredients are—it seems that not everyone agrees about its origin.
And that kind of makes it just a little bit better.
A Quick History
Obviously, with a name like “poutine,” the classic dish must be derived from some historic French village but it is actually quite the modern dish. Most people believe that it probably originated in rural Quebec in the late 1950s but not everyone agrees as to which region it first showed up. Some say it was Victorville while others argue it is Drummondville. Still yet, others argue that the poutine’s rightful birthplace is Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu; and perhaps as late as 1964.
Prior to the first appearance of the poutine in popular culture, there was a popular dish circulating in the United Kingdom consisting of “chips, cheese, and gravy.” Chips, of course, is the British term for French fries. This dish became popular at the turn of the 20th century and many believe that this was the initial inspiration for the pouting that we know of throughout Canada, today.
The term we have come to use as “poutine” appears in documentation as far back as 1810 but its association with a dish that consists of “fries with cheese curds and gravy” maybe only started in the early 1980s. Some people argue that the term “poutine” could be related, in some way, to the English word “pudding,” while others argue that variations could have derived from “pouding” which is a “dessert made from flour or bread crumbs.”
At the same time, there is another colloquial use for Poutine. In some circles it is actually used as a [derogatory] slang for a “fat [woman].” This is taken from the English term “pudding” which has also been long used to mean “a person or a thing that resembles pudding,” or a “stout, thick person.”
Basically, the poutine consists of:
- medium, thick-cut, twice-fried potatoes
- fresh cheese curds
- brown gravy—the type that is typically associated with pork or veal