July 29, 2021

In Quebec, poutine dreams of a global destiny

LETTER FROM MONTREAL

There are culinary “treasures” that are believed to be reserved for the country where they were born. Take poutine, this dish of soft fries, drowned in brown sauce and covered with cheese curds: they are found all over Canada, on the menu of upscale restaurants in Montreal or at La Belle Patate, in Vancouver, of fast-food chains. scattered along the highways at village “snack bars”, served on traditional aluminum plates. She is the cultural bond that unites a whole people, as surely as Leonard Cohen manages to do it.

This national dish with undeniable invigorating virtues – and more questionable taste qualities – seems to have been invented to be enjoyed exclusively after a hockey match or a snowshoe ride at -20 ° C. However, in Quebec, some are convinced that poutine is “The next global culinary trend”, as have been the hot dog, the hamburger, the pizza, the tacos or the sushi. In short, a phenomenon ready to overwhelm the planet.

“Cultural appropriation”

“Poutine has become international in less than fifty years, when pizza will have taken more than a century to establish itself”, raves Sylvain Charlebois, researcher in agri-food sciences at Dalhousie University in Halifax (Nova Scotia), author of Putin Nation, a work with subtitles “The glorious rise of an unpretentious dish” (Fides, to be published in September). Following in the footsteps of his subject of studies, he tasted poutine in Lille, Shanghai, Mooloolaba (in Australia), Dubai or Cleveland, “With a wine-based sauce and powdered mozzarella: foul! he remembers. But this cultural appropriation is the price of glory. “

Already embellished with lobster in the Gaspé, pulled pork or breaded chicken depending on the region – a “lobster-foie gras-flakes of gold” poutine at the prohibitive price of 417 dollars a portion has even been created in Toronto, on occasion. of the International Film Festival in 2018 -, the dish can be acclimated to all gastronomic traditions. “The simplicity of its recipe allows all culinary fantasies”, affirms Sylvain Charlebois.

Its origins are, however, 100% Quebec. At the end of an investigation of several years, the researcher is able to affirm that the poutine was born in 1957, at the Café Idéal, in Warwick (Montérégie), when a certain Jean-Guy Lainesse asked the restaurateur Fernand Lachance of him. serve cheese curds on your fries. “It’s going to make you a goddamn poutine”, Fernand would have retorted. Does the word originate from « pudding » english? Anyway, Sylvain Charlebois believes that the popularity of this dish, rural and working-class, is “A symbol of rebellion” French Canadians against the English Canadians of the time, richer, more powerful and urban.

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