MONTREAL — The buddies from Quebec went to London’s Brick Lane meals industry, looking for a taste of home. But as they devoured their poutine — that gloppy, trouser-bursting dish of French fries, cheddar cheese curds and gravy — one thing felt horribly wrong.
The dish tasted just proper — so authentic that the cheese curds emitted a faint “squeak, squeak” when bitten into — the telltale sign of a correct poutine.
But the jovial chef serving them had an Ontario accent. Even far more disconcerting: He was wearing the hat of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey group, the archrivals of the Montreal Canadiens.
“Poutine is Quebecois — it is not Canadian,” mentioned Zak Rosentzveig, 25, a poutine-obsessed economist from Montreal, lately describing his visit to the meals stall and adding his voice to a simmering debate over poutine’s true identity.
“Calling poutine ‘Canadian’ makes me feel very uncomfortable since Quebec has a distinct culture and history from the rest of Canada, and poutine is a sturdy symbol of that.”
When President Barack Obama served smoked duck poutine canapés to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the White House last year, he unintentionally fanned a cultural skirmish over who deserves credit for the unapologetically caloric dish.
Now, a group of patriots from the province that gave the world poutine is attempting to reclaim it as its personal. They insist that poutine — extended mocked by Anglophone Canadians as a low-grade hangover remedy — is getting unfairly usurped by the rest of the nation.
Identity politics are no modest matter in Quebec, exactly where issues about the encroachment of outdoors forces on French Canadian culture stay deeply ingrained in the province’s psyche. Even Quebec’s license plates, which say “Je me souviens” (“I remember”), have for decades been interpreted by some, relatively or not, as a reference to the British conquest of Quebec in 1759.
Only this month, the Quebec legislature passed a resolution calling for merchants in the French-majority province to quit greeting buyers with “Bonjour hi” — a hybrid expression common in bilingual Montreal — and to say just “Bonjour” instead.
Top the movement to rebrand the beloved and starchy snack is Nicolas Fabien-Ouellet, 28, a self-described “poutinologist” from Montreal who rocked the Canadian culinary globe this summer right after presenting an academic paper arguing that Canada had culturally appropriated a dish so quintessentially Quebecois that it amounted to a theft.
In some approaches, his argument is a light echo of conversations across Canada about cultural appropriation. The treachery, he observed, was akin to Britain claiming credit for haggis or Israel extolling falafel, extensively enjoyed in the Arab globe, as its “national snack.”
Six months later, Mr. Fabien-Ouellet has become something of a folk hero in his native Quebec, feted in dozens of newspapers and radio shows, even as he has been derided by Canadian federalists on social media as a poutine nationalist. He is now writing a book on poutine culture.
“Like Céline Dion, poutine was when mocked and underappreciated in Quebec,” he mused this week at La Banquise, a common ice cream shop-turned-poutine restaurant in Montreal’s Plateau neighborhood as the pungent smell of fried oil wafted by means of the air.
Dozens of 20-somethings sat hunched over heaping plates like poutine la reggae — ground beef, guacamole, diced tomatoes and hot peppers. He continued, “Now that poutine has turn into an international superstar, Canadians want to say it is theirs, but it is not.”
The bookish and rail-thin poutinologist, who seems not to pig out on his topic, stressed that the exaltation of poutine as a single of the prime 10 Canadian inventions of all time — up there with insulin and the Wonderbra — belied the reality that it was after ridiculed by Canadian elites to “tarnish Quebec culture and undermine its legitimacy of self-determination as a nation.”
Right after initial appearing in the 1950s in rural Quebec, poutine came to be sneered at by some gastro-snobs as a late-night nosh whose name dare not be spoken in a province that has extended fetishized French cuisine. Its greasy simplicity was served up at hockey arena snack bars and noticed as reflecting a working-class Quebec far more inclined to cheese fries than foie gras.
Later, some overall health officials sought to ban poutine on school cafeteria menus.
Poutine’s rags-to-riches transformation was cemented when Martin Picard, a maverick of Canadian, or shall we say Quebecois cuisine, helped raise it to an art type in 2001 when he produced poutine with foie gras the signature dish at his now-celebrated Montreal restaurant Au Pied de Cochon.
The dish additional went worldwide when Chuck Hughes won an Iron Chef America contest in 2011, trouncing his rival with a plate of lobster poutine.
Nowadays, there are poutine restaurants from Thailand and Bermuda to Liverpool, and concoctions like chicken tikka poutine and cheese cake poutine with the gravy replaced by caramel.
Still, the nagging question remains: Is poutine Quebecois or Canadian?
Lesley Chesterman, the meals critic at The Montreal Gazette, said it was a sacrilege to get in touch with poutine “Canadian,” insisting that, a lot more usually than not, poutine outside of Quebec was quite merely not poutine.
“In Vancouver they will get it all wrong — they will use mozzarella,” she said. “People say you can now get cheese curds in Saskatchewan, but it will not be actual poutine. When it crosses the border, it loses its authenticity.”
She added, “Cheese cake poutine is just plain wrong!”
Other major poutine proponents, such as Mr. Picard, countered that the Canadian embrace of poutine could be construed as a healthier sign of a country increasingly at peace with each its English- and French-speaking parts.
“It is a sign that Canada’s provinces are receiving along better. It can be noticed as a cultural affirmation,” he stated.
Jamie Kennedy, an influential Canadian chef who brought gourmet poutine to Toronto, stated accusations that Canada was pilfering poutine from Quebec gave him indigestion, given that there was no such point as a “Canadian national dish” in multicultural Canada.
“Do we want to endlessly give credit to the Quebecois for inventing it?” he asked.
What ever its cultural provenance, its origins have far more claims than there are curds in a plate of poutine.
One widespread theory is that poutine traces its roots to 1957, to a restaurant formerly known as Le Lutin Qui Rit, or The Laughing Elf, in Warwick, a tiny town northeast of Montreal, when a buyer asked the owner Fernand Lachance to add cheese curds to his fries. Mr. Lachance is mentioned to have proclaimed that it would be a “maudite poutine,” or “a hell of a mess.”
A history of poutine on the site of La Banquise notes that other dishes made of potatoes are also referred to as “poutines,” and it could also be derived from the English word “pudding.”
Whatever the truth, some chefs, like Mr. Hughes, the creator of the lobster poutine, said politicizing poutine gave the fatty treat far as well much importance.
“Poutine,” he stated, “is a undesirable choice at 4 in the morning.”
Published at Tue, 19 Dec 2017 10:00:23 +0000