February 2, 2011

Poutine: fries and gravy, eh?

Fact: Canada does not exist. North Dakota is just very, very large. Skeptical? I can prove it.
Before this weekend, I was much like you. I believed in the fabled land of Canada to the north. When I arrived in Montreal to participate in the McGill Model United Nations Conference, I expected to encounter distinctly Canadian things: mounted police, maple leaves and a dislike of Americans. I ended up coming across only the last of those three things. The fact that it is the middle of winter and I spent the entire weekend in the city is completely irrelevant to my not finding the other two.
But I did discover something native to Quebec that seemed far too American to be a coincidence. It was called a heart attack. Understandably turned off by the name, the Canadians have decided to colloquially call it poutine.
Poutine is a dish comprised of French fries and cheese curds smothered in brown gravy. Essentially, then, it is fat and salt in a bowl. It is unsurprising that people like it. My friend Josh had been talking about poutine for weeks prior to our trip, having researched the best places to find it in Montreal. This is my explanation for why I trudged nearly two miles through slush to arrive at Frite Alors, which appeared to be a typical downtown diner. Like most diners, it offered nothing of remote nutritional merit. Unlike most diners, it had an entire section of its menu devoted to poutine.
There was poutine with grilled onions, poutine with mushrooms, poutine with sausage, poutine with bacon…the list goes on. I ended up ordering classic poutine. Thankfully, it came in a lunch portion. It was so heavy that I only ate half.
Yes, it was quite good (though in my opinion, it needed more cheese curds; you can never have too many cheese curds). Yes, it was nice to eat some comfort food after trekking through downtown Montreal. The trekking was probably a good thing in retrospect—I would’ve needed to run several miles to burn off all of the poutine. But it was definitely more American than Canadian. I could easily see poutine served in a McDonald’s (and McDonald’s in Canada does sell it), but it seemed extremely out of place in a country branded on a “holier-than-thou” attitude towards Americans. Fat is a staple of American fast food. Cheese curds have “American” written all over them. Poutine is a French word, yes, but as mentioned above, it is really only a euphemism for the dish’s true name, which is the leading cause of death in, you guessed it, America. (My logic is exceptional.)
Thus, the only logical explanation is that Canada does not exist. If it did, the U.S. would no longer have a monopoly on the fat industry. The suggestion that any country has an edge on the U.S. is anathema, of course, and were it actually to happen, the universe would implode. In the interests of preserving life as we know it, then, Canada cannot possibly exist. Thankfully, however, poutine does, and whenever I need a delicious way to take years off of my life, I’m pleased I can do it in America.

Anna Meier

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