Poutine is a food, despite the fact that it is pronounced like in Putin the President of all the Russia’s there is no relation. Unless of course Vladimir Putin takes his name from this famous culinary delight from Canada.
Poutine became all the rage about 20 years ago around 1995, previously it only existed as a homemade treat. One theory about the development of poutine is that back in 1951 Hélène and her husband René Léger created a simple dish of roast chicken with side of french fries in heavy brown gravy, this simple dish as it was became a National restaurant chain know as St-Hubert Bar-B-Q. It is called St-Hubert because their very first restaurant was and still is at 6535 rue St-Hubert in Montreal just South of rue Beaubien. They were the first to offer free home delivery in Canada.
In Quebec we also had another institution the roadside Chip wagons, with names like Thérèse la Reine de la Patate, serving steamed hot dogs, hamburgers and fries. This is a common sight on the back roads in Quebec and there is always a clientele for such delights, all these owners of Chip wagons had to offer something other than ketchup or vinegar and salt as toppings for the French Fries. So someone started to offer St-Hubert famous brown gravy sauce but added one other ingredient the famous White Cheese Curds of St-Albert. This is a small French speaking village just outside Ottawa and the specialty for as long as anyone can remember has been the famous White Cheese made in the Factory of the village. This cheese curds are unique and not made anywhere else and adds a special taste to the Poutine.
This white cheese is so special that three years ago when a catastrophic fire destroyed the St-Albert Cheese factory it made National News in Canada. The cheese factory was quickly rebuilt and in the meanwhile other cheese factories in the area offered to help out so that the famous cheese curds essential to the making of Poutine would not be in short supply. People did hoard and for a short period of time the St-Albert Cheese curds were difficult to find. In other words you cannot substitute St-Albert’s cheese curds for another cheese it simply won’t work, texture, taste and that saltiness which is distinctive.
Ottawa the Federal Capital of Canada has an Annual Poutine Festival in June and it attracts thousands of people. It gives you an idea of how this little culinary delight of humble origin has become a craze and remains a favourite. You can now find Poutine on the menu of fine dining establishment, from simple little road side shack to elegant dining establishment.
Today Poutine is offered in a variety of toppings, from Lobster to Goose Liver to Italian Bolognese Sauce, the combinations are mind boggling. I have to confess I have never had a poutine, I simply do not see the fascination with it.
A few nights ago while walking on Wellington Street West we saw a new poutine creation, a Poutine Cake, just goes to show anything is possible. It’s a white cake with marzipan icing covered with french fries and brown sauce and the famous cheese curds. I suppose it is that sweet and sour salty taste which makes it a delicacy, is that the right word?