Everybody loves poutine. It’s the delicious mix of French fries, cheese curds and gravy that is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. But did you know that poutine used to be called “mixte”? It’s true, and it’s just one of the mouth-watering facts you’ll learn as we take a trip through the history of Canada’s favorite snack.
The first thing you need to know is that there’s quite a bit of debate over the origins of poutine. Some believe that the tasty dish originated in 1957 at a restaurant named Le Lutin qui rit (“The Laughing Elf”) in the small dairy-farming town of Warwick, Quebeck. As the tale goes, a customer requested cheese curds on the French fries, to which the owner remarked, “Ça va faire une maudite poutine,” or, “That’s going to make a dreadful mess.” Poutine, the Québécois slang for mess, ended up sticking.
The problem with this origin story is that there’s a missing ingredient — the gravy. This is where the history starts to get murky. In 1964, after a restaurant-owner at Le Roy Jucep in Drummondville, Quebec, noticed a few diners ordering a side of cheese curds to go with the popular gravy and fries dish, he decided to combine everything into a single menu item. Putting the three ingredients together proved to be a winning combination, and the dish quickly spread throughout Canada and into the United States.
The widespread success of poutine has made way for a number of variations on the traditional mix. For example, many restaurants in Newfoundland will substitute dressing/stuffing in the place of cheese curds. And depending on where you go, poutine can get surprisingly expensive. Canadian eateries have found ways of adding lobster and foie gras to the dish. Toronto’s Disgraceland will even add all of the toppings to the mix, but it’s going to run you close to a hundred dollars.
On the other side of the menu, poutine can also be incredibly economical. Fast food chains across Canada, like McDonalds, have concocted their own versions in recent years to go along with the burgers and shakes.
Although we may disagree about who created it or how much it should cost, there’s no argument that poutine is one of Canada’s greatest inventions. And that’s not hyperbole, because it was ranked the tenth best invention by CBC in 2007. The irresistible mix of French fries, cheese curds and gravy managed to top standard time, the Bloody Caesar and even the BlackBerry, but was beat out by the telephone and insulin.
Whether you want it traditional, covered in lobster or substituted with dressing, poutine is the delicious snack that nobody can resist.