Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Once upon a time - during our honeymoon, actually - we ate at a restaurant in Thunder Bay, Ontario. The meal I ordered came with french fries, and the waitress asked me if I wanted gravy with my fries. I said no, and thought, "Why would I want gravy with my fries? Weird."

Then, I learned what poutine was all about. I've seen poutine on restaurant menus in Canada before, but I've never ordered it, because I wanted to wait until I was in Québec to give it a try. Poutine was invented and is most widely available in Québec, so if I was ever going to try it, it was going to have to be there. I certainly didn't want the A&W in Sarnia, Ontario - just to pick an example of another place I've seen it on the menu - to give me my first impression of poutine.

When we went to Québec during our Vermont trip and stopped in the small town of Knowlton, I thought, "Hey, I bet I could get poutine here! And so what if I just ate lunch less than two hours ago?" And sure enough, I could; although, more of the diners and restaurants we looked at in Knowlton did not have poutine, than did.

So, I actually have several options here: large poutine, small poutine, large Italian poutine, small Italian poutine. Gotta go with the regular version, obviously. And since I'm here, why not go large? I mean, how often am I in Québec, anyway?

Large indeed! This is about the size of your average cheese fries appetizer served by many American restaurants. And speaking of which, "cheese fries" also happens to be the closest thing to poutine you can get in the States (most places), although down here, fries are rarely served with gravy. But they do both come with cheese! And the cheese is the best part, in my opinion. It's interesting that the cheese is not evenly spread throughout; instead, the cheese comes in small chunks, which means with some bites, you get a mouthful of cheese. Which is quite alright.

As for the gravy, I've never really been big on gravy. I always have my mashed potatoes with no gravy, for instance. But just like the cole slaw on a Primanti Bros. sandwich, it works here. If nothing else, it serves to make the fries soggy. I actually like my fries soggy (sometimes), which is partly why I often douse them with ketchup. Another note: the menu referred to the gravy as "BBQ sauce", but it's nothing like what we think of as barbecue sauce. It's gravy.

My opinion of poutine? Yum! But how much of my "large poutine" did I actually eat?

I boxed the rest and saved it for later. And after driving for three hours with a half-eaten large poutine (a.k.a. a small poutine) sitting in the passenger seat, let me tell you...that stuff has a really strong smell! Oh, and I am proud to report that unlike the In-N-Out Double Double, the large poutine did not give me a massive case of indigestion. YES!

So after eating an entire large poutine in two sittings, here's my question: why? Isn't the concept completely ridiculous? French fries aren't bad enough for you as it is, so let's top it with gravy and cheese, too!! But the ridiculousness of it all is part of its charm. The idea that poutine is as popular as it is north of the border, makes me fall in love with Canada all over again. Seriously, you guys are the best.

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