top of page

Poutine - trendy junk food

"when seen for the first time, poutine looks like a culinary catastrophe." Rebecca Nicholson/The Guardian

Indeed it does, but then 'poutine' apparently means mess, and stems from a comment made by the inventor - well the inventor who seems to now be the main claimant to the title:

"It was created in 1957 at the restaurant Café Idéal. A customer entered one day and requested that the owner Ferdinand Lachance give him fries and cheese curds together in a paper bag because he was in a rush. Despite the unusual request, Lachance acquiesced replying, "ça va faire une maudite poutine!" ("that will make a damned mess!"). James March/BBC

There are other origin stories, and just to add to the confusion 2024 is being celebrated as the 60th anniversary of poutine - so that doesn't add up at all - if the above story is true then we are somewhere between 60 and 70.

There is actually one ingredient missing from that origin story above - gravy, which as an addition to the story was added as a side in 1962 by the 'inventor's' wife, and then added by a restaurateur in 1964 - which I guess is how we come to 2024 being the 60th anniversary. And anyway shouldn't the customer who made the request be the given the kudos of invention?

Chips and curd cheese I can come at, but gravy? I just don't get drowning chips in gravy, although now that I come to think of it when I have chips as a side and I have a sauce in my main dish then I will indeed dip the chips in the gravy - nay drag them through it. So perhaps I'm being a bit snobbish here. But I have to say it looks revolting.

But that's the thing about Poutine.

"Poutine, in its original and natural state, is an honest food. It does not pretend to refinement or sophistication, and yet (as any consumer of a truly great poutine will tell you) its simple constituent parts combine to form a complex and uniquely satisfying food. It wants to be enjoyed by all – be they lords or labourers." Zachary A. Palmer Laporte/The Guardian"

Whilst there are indeed upmarket variations - which I will come to - it's basically yet another peasant food, in that it originated in the rural dairy region of Centre-du-Québec, from where it migrated to Montreal bistros in the 70s and in the 90s to MacDonalds and co. and then the world. Even here in Melbourne. I looked it up. Dominos, for example, has a version - with ground meat - shown here.

The Québecois are extremely proud of it, and then, of course we get into nationalistic arguments. I saw one commentary saying that today it is known world-wide as a Canadian icon and is mostly set next to the Canadian flag, when really it should be known as a Québecois dish and be aligned with the Québecois flag - which is this one - heavily featuring the French fleur-de-lys.

And to bring you completely up to date, there is some pressure today to ban it because the name sounds the same as Putin, who as we know, has caused irreparable harm to the Ukraine. Some restaurants, in protest, have withdrawn it. Food in politics - a topic for my future food curriculum.

Still on the social/history sort of thing however - two things. The first is this, a supposedly World eating competition. I assume fastest and most? Revolting anyway and hardly an advertisement for poutine - well for me anyway. Podgy males stuffing themselves with fatty foods, with their hands and possibly being sick at the end of it all. Is that fun? Is it a chest-thumping testosterone kind of thing, or is that being not only snobbish but also a bit, not exactly Me Too, but I suppose anti-male? No not anti, just a bit dismayed.

Number two. In British Columbia there was a 14 Day Poutine Event which culminated in a competition for the best poutine. This is the winner of the Tastiest award. I think it was probably held around National Poutine Day which is on April 11th - and as I said before - this year is special - 60th anniversary.

That winning poutine was not traditional however, as it features coquilles Saint Jacques (scallops) - and you can probably read the rest. Many more ingredients than the original two (chips and cheese curds) or later three (+gravy). And to show it's poor origins you can see that Chez Serge seems to be the café for a petrol station. A truckies' caff in spite of the grand name. No, not even that. I just found a photo - just a kind of food truck but not a truck - a whole in the wall cabin. So fitting for poutine. The Canadian flag is OK here because we are in British Columbia.

The poutine varied wildly from the original, but at its base were those fries and curd cheese, and on top the gravy was converted into a creamy white wine hollandaise. And so it seems it can be called poutine whatever else is in there - and there was a lot.

"Chips and gravy are quite common in takeouts and diners in North America, but it’s the fresh cheese that transforms it into poutine. No fresh cheese, no poutine." Docaitta

“For me, you have to have poutine sauce and cheese curd to call it poutine. You can switch it up with braised short-rib, or pulled pork or even chopped-up potato and cheddar perogies, but the base has to remain the same. I’m a traditionalist; it’s a classic for good reason.” Patrick Friesen - chef

And indeed Wikipedia decrees that:

"Many variations on the original recipe are popular, leading some to suggest that poutine has emerged as a new dish classification in its own right, as with sandwiches and dumplings." Wikipedia

I also saw a call for Canada to sign on to UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage program so that Poutine could be proposed and hopefully added to the list.

Which takes me back to how I began all this. which is with this recipe in the latest Coles Magazine, in a section dedicated to promoting some of their sauces and stocks - Beef and bacon poutine with peppercorn sauce. In this case it was promoting their peppercorn sauce, so if you didn't want to support Coles, you could make your own. I think I may have known of poutine - well only in the sense of it being a Canadian dish and therefore to be mentioned when I come to Canada in my tour around the world, but I decided it looked interesting enough to feature poutine now. Indeed, now that I have looked at a few different versions of poutine I would have to say the Coles one is one of the more tempting looking ones.

Coles actually has a basic and traditional version as well - Poutine with home-made curds and gravy and that too looks much more tempting than some of the truly awful looking versions I saw here and there. They seem to have held back on the gravy somewhat I have to say, but they do tell you how to make the curds - heat milk and salt, add lemon juice, stir for a bit, cool, strain and done - well it's cottage cheese isn't it as we saw the other day? So if you don't want to bother making it just buy some.

Not to be outdone Woolworths also has a recipe which looks very, very traditional and basically just awful. To my mind anyway. Maybe Coles just has better photographers.

Three others: Easy poutine - Emma Knowles/delicious. again, less gravy; Poutine - Dominic Smith/SBS - ditto; and Peking Duck poutine - I am a Food Blog - which is a good example of the kind of things that the more experimental cooks and chefs go for.

My final submission on the variation front is

Poutine meets polenta chips and vegemite from an Australian website called Saucy Gander because to my mind it looked the nicest of the lot Seriously not traditional though and I loved her little summary of how she came to devise it:

"The idea developed like this, in a Smeagol-vs-Gollum style interior dialogue:

think vegemite –>mmm cheese –>ok think vegemite –>cheesy polenta chips –>ok, let’s think vegemite –>Cheesybite! (vegemite and cheese spread) –>eww Cheesybite –>I’ve got it, polenta chips with vegemite and cheese –>erm, you serious? –>with vegemite gravy and cheese! –>with polenta chips? –>sure, it’ll be like poutine, except with polenta chips, and vegemite gravy –>*looks dubious, but goes with the flow" Saucy Gander

Mind you I hate vegemite, although maybe this would be a good way to try it for one more time.

The process however, is more or less the kind of thing I shall be doing with tonight's pasta.

Related Posts

See All


Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
bottom of page