For those who don’t know, poutine is a combination of cheese curds, brown gravy, and french fries, invented forty years ago. The hot gravy melts the cheese curds, which consolidate with the fries to form a gooey mass that it is very difficult to photograph in a remotely appetizing way. Even in real life, poutine looks like a food that has already made several false starts through the digestive system. Whether for this reason, or because of its powerful ability to absorb and retain alcohol, it is frequently eaten after a heavy night’s drinking.
I was eating it sober, and under the watchful eye of a native (NEVER swim or eat poutine alone), so it was a great relief to find out that the stuff was delicious. The cheese curds did indeed melt and pull the dish together into one gooey mass, although the French fries stayed crispy enough to be individually discernible in the collective, giving the dish a pleasing light crunch. The brown gravy was turpid and dark, with a sturdy tannin structure supporting notes of oak, wood smoke, spice, aniseed and musk. There was the faintest hint of chocolate and raspberry in the finish, though that may have reflected a previous use of the serving dish. In the nose, the poutine was beefy and slightly insolent – I detected an almost wanton playfulness, the evanescent flavors frolicking together like young beavers in a Gaspé pond at dusk – but in the mouth it opened to reveal a velvety (or perhaps Velveeta-like) smoothness that tenaciously clung to every membrane in my mouth, esophagus, and stomach for the next three hours. Small wonder that food is renowned for its ability to enhance heavy drinking. The aftertaste was rich, dense, and interminable, returning to say hello at various times in the afternoon from its rock-hard, baseball-sized headquarters in my stomach.
Poutine: the dish of Gods