Written By Kyle Magin
In the course of my 9-to-5 as an editor, I come across a number of menus from farm-to-table/fusion/nouveau expensive restaurants. In case that’s not descriptive enough for you, these are the restaurants where the childfree/empty nesters who want to be cool head to in (name of town/neighborhood here that imploded after 2008) on the waterfront that local media/chamber of commerce cheerleaders will tell you is having a real renaissance. They serve over-priced charcuterie on thick wooden cutting boards no cutting actually takes place on.
On those menus, I’m starting to see a lot of artisanal poutine.
For the un-initiated, poutine is a Canadian delicacy that finds gravy poured over French fries and cheese curds. That’s it.
These restaurants and their inevitably moody, tattooed chefs have really fucked it up. It’s a worse offense to our neighbors up north than when we started putting hockey franchises in Tony Montana’s backyard.
For starters, everything about poutine 2.0 begins with a flawed premise: you’re not totally, violently, obliterated drunk when you’re eating it. Sure, you may be putting away your local microbrewer’s 6.7% ABV option, or perhaps going all-in on some 10% mead, but you’re not in the right BAC bracket to really get poutine if you’re out some place in a nice button-up with your girlfriend/fiancée/wife in tow in her going-out clothes and a sensible blazer.
No restaurant serving this new-tine would have you in a state where you can properly enjoy Canada’s opus of drunk food. You need to be slobbering down the front of your beer-stained puffy vest one to two puke-and-rallies into the early morning hours of a freezing Windsor, Ontario January eve.
If you can’t be in Windsor, you need to at least be in a Windsor state of mind: Hey, I’m 19 years old, I have 18 cents and a twonie in my pocket, I maybe peed my pants and this part of town is scary as hell but I can’t get back into the casino/strip club because I’m missing a shoe or have visible, open wounds on my face and arms from falling down some stairs. My ride leaves to go back over the border into Detroit at 5 a.m. and I really need to eat something so I can converse coherently with border patrol. I wonder if anyone will notice that I peed myself?
Then, and really only then, can you sit down and truly enjoy the grace a greasy bit of poutine can bestow upon a haggard wretch such as yourself. In a moment of near-total drunken despair, poutine appears as an angel of healing, applying a soothing salve to your gut on par with any ministrations Mother Theresa or Florence Nightingale offered their charges.
Now that we’ve established the only acceptable context to enjoy poutine in, let’s move onto the ingredients. As enumerated above, there are (3) ingredients in poutine.
None of these things need be better than you can purchase at a highway grab-and-gulp. In fact, given poutine’s stated purpose of resurrecting the near-dead, anything more than a mash-up of Wendy’s,
Culver’s and Hormel, respectively, would make Marie Antoinette gag at the frivolity of it all. AND YET. Time and again I open these menus to find poutine garnished with green stuff and fried pork belly, or offered as a vegan option.
AS A VEGAN OPTION.
Society, we’ve reached the last rung on the DEFCON ladder when we’re putting more thought into poutine than the ex-felon slopping it onto trays in the casino’s basement cafeteria.
Ha! Darling, I know, why don’t you put on that Tiffany’s necklace I bought for you and we’ll go out tonight. What’s that? Let’s go to Sodom-by-the-Waves on the riverfront. I hear they’re offering a condor egg-topped poutine on a bed of locally-plucked greens and orphans. It pairs nicely with a light chard.
Read this fucking description of poutine at a brewery in Oceanside with outdoor seating:
Pork Belly Poutine: Frites + Brown Ale Gravy + White Cheddar Curds
Canada’s second official fucking language is French, the dish was invented in French Canada, and the froggiest Quebecois separatist wouldn’t dare deign to call the potato product at the base of poutine anything but fries. Pinch your nose, affect a crappy attitude and say “Fries with cheese and gravy.”
You’ve now spoken the ingredients exactly as every Quebecois understands them.
If you’re going to try poutine with anything less than 12-hours worth of Seagram’s and 7’s in your system, you cannot taste poutine.