Philly serves hot pretzels with mustard. Boston bakes a mean
bean. And there's nothing quite like a slice of New York pizza.
So what's the local flavor to savor if you're headed north of
the border to Montréal?
Une poutine, sil vous plait.
The basic poutine recipe consists of French fries topped with
cheese curds and drenched in brown gravy. OK, so it's not exactly
haute cuisine, but it is comfort food at its best - Quebec style.
Restaurateur Ferdinand Lachance invented poutine over 4 decades
ago. His idea for poutine was part customer request, part cooking
experiment, and now pure folklore.
In 1953, Lachance bought his first restaurant, Café Ideal,
in Warwick, Quebec, an hour's drive northeast of Montreal. Inside,
patrons could play a game of pool, buy some penny candy for the
kids, and even get a haircut.
"It was practically the rule," Lachance says, who's
since hung up his apron and now enjoys retirement. "If you
had a barbershop, you had a restaurant, too. It brought in customers."
Places for Poutine
The poutine legend goes that one day a young patron placed an
order for French fries topped with some cheese. Lachance was dumbfounded.
"But it will be a maudite poutine," Lachance
replied, which politely translated into "a damn mishmash."
But Lachance complied. He served the young man a cupful of hot
French fries and soft curd cheese. The addition of brown gravy
was still a few years away. So there it was, the messy, melting,
maudite humble beginnings of poutine.
Eventually, Lachance renovated his restaurant and renamed it
Le Lutin Qui Rit, which translates into "the laughing elf."
With the grand reopening of the restaurant in 1957, Lachance wanted
to offer a dish unique to the establishment. Since the odd concoction
of French fries and cheese curds proved to be not so odd after
all, his wife suggested a way to improve the dish by adding some
gravy. But not just any gravy. She created a mélange
of brown gravy, tangy barbecue sauce (quite new at the time),
and a hint of ketchup to pour over the French fries and cheese.
The rest, as they say, is histoire. Poutine was born.
Today, poutine remains popular not only throughout the province,
but has spilled over the border as well. Many North Country restaurants
serve the dish and Quebecois snowbirds have even introduced poutine
to the tropics of Florida. Lachance says his culinary concoction
has made it as far as Korea. But while the French fry, curd cheese,
and brown sauce recipe has reached the four corners of the globe,
there is still no place like Quebec when it comes to poutine authenticity.
As inventor of poutine, Lachine has forever taken his place in
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