No longer a poutine virgin


Last Friday, June 24, was the feast day of Quebec’s patron saint John the Baptist – or Saint-Jean-Baptiste in French. Like many things in Quebec, even these simplest occasions are often more complex than meets the eye. Although Quebec is a province of Canada, some here insist on it being referred to as a nation unto itself. Therefore there are those who refer to the holiday as La fete national. Go figure.

Leaving the debate about nationhood and Quebec aside, last Friday was a milestone day for me. Whatever Quebec’s status politically, it is still the home to a culinary concoction called poutine; not surprisingly, even the pronunciation of this word is debated. According to Wikipedia, poutine is a dish of french fries and cheese curds topped with brown gravy. It emerged in Quebec, in the late 1950s.

Therefore, in true Quebecois fashion, on the Fête nationale, at the age of 62 years, I partook of my first poutine. And it was delicious.
Your trusty blogger digs into his first poutine

Although I’m fond of all three of these ingredients, the combination never really appealed to me. However, I figured millions of people worldwide acn’t all be wrong. Therefore, in true Quebecois fashion, on the Fête nationale, at the age of 62 years, I partook of my first poutine. And it was delicious.

There was a time when taverns in Quebec, and Montreal in particular, were to be found everywhere. These men-only watering holes served no spirits or wine, just beer. bottled but primarily on-tap. They often had tasty food menus. One traditional dish that was a staple in Montreal taverns was known simply as frites sauce. It consisted of a bowl of, what were once called French fried potatoes, swimming in a sea of brown gravy. Essentially, poutine without the cheese. After a few glasses of cold draft beer, this was a tasty, if not overly healthy meal, yet for some reason, perhaps I’m a purist, the addition of cheese did not sit well with me.

… as frites sauce. It was made up of a bowl of, what were once called French fried potatoes, swimming in a sea of brown gravy.

But, just to show that you can teach an old dog new tricks, I announced to my wife upon awakening on Friday that I was going to take advantage of the day to have my first poutine. In the absence of taverns, I decided to partake of my momentous endeavour at a local shop, the type of place once-called a greasy spoon. People in the know when it comes to poutine will tell you these are the places to find the best preparations. Well, things didn’t work out exactly as planned, and I found myself not in a traditional poutine emporium, but in downtown Montreal’s Hurley’s Irish Pub. Given the important role the Irish community has played in the development of Montreal over the centuries, this seemed like a perfect balance.

Given the important role the Irish community has played in the development of Montreal over the centuries, this seemed like a perfect balance.

If I continue on this track, next January 25, Robbie Burns’ Day, I may just have to have a go at the traditional Scottish dish known as Haggis. Although, I can’t deny that may take a little more culinary moxy than I can muster.

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