Melty, meaty, cheesy, salty—poutine combines so many wonderful flavours and textures in one bowl, it’s hard to believe poutine is still an undiscovered treasure among most of the world.
Most Canadians know that classic poutine is a delectable (read: coronary-inducing) mix of french fries, gravy, and cheese curds. Details vary—light chicken gravy or sauce brune? double-fried french fries? bite-sized cheese curds or smaller?—but the traditional recipe is pretty straightforward.
But even if poutine’s a regular part of your diet (and you might want to see a doctor if it is) we’ll bet these are a few fun facts about poutine that you didn’t know.
1. No one’s entirely sure where poutine originated. The traditional story is that poutine originated in the 1950s in Warwick, Quebec, at a restaurant called Le Lutin qui rit. Upon being asked to add cheese curds to a customer’s fries, owner Fernand Lachance responded, “Ça va faire une maudite poutine,” or, “That’s going to make a dreadful mess.” However, there are several other origin stories. It’s safe to say, though, that poutine has its origins mid-century somewhere in rural Quebec.
2. Poutine wasn’t always called poutine. At first, poutine was simple a 50-50 mixture of cheese curds and fries. When gravy got added somewhere along the way, it was called “mixte.” “Poutine” was adopted when large chains started selling the concoction—cheese, gravy, and all.
3. Newfoundland has its own variation of poutine. Many restaurants in Newfoundland serve chips, dressing, and gravy, with dressing (also known as stuffing) used in place of the cheese curds.
4. Poutine is the subject of heated debate. Well, debate, anyway. At the 2010 Leacock Debate in Toronto, celebrities including CBC’s Carol Off and author Andrew Pyper squared off over whether poutine should become Canada’s national dish. (The pro side won by a narrow margin.)
5. It’s in the Guinness Book of World Records. In 2014, Brandon, Manitoba restaurant Joe Beeverz broke the record for the world’s largest poutine, previously held by the good people of Saguenay, Quebec. Joe Beeverz’ poutine weighed in at 1,949 pounds, which was more than 800 pounds heavier than the Saguenay creation.
6. It can get pretty expensive. As soon as chefs start tinkering, poutine gets pricey. Toronto’s Bymark Restaurant offers a lobster poutine for $27. Au Pied de Cochon in Montreal offers foie gras poutine for $24. If you want to get truly bank-breaking (and a little disgusting), order a large poutine at Toronto’s Disgraceland, and add every single topping on the menu. That’ll run you a cool $85.
7. You can drink it. You could liquify poutine in a blender, but if you think that’s gross, hunt for a bottle of Jones Soda’s cheese-and-gravy flavoured poutine soda. Actually, come to think of it, that’s gross too.
8. It’s one of Canada’s greatest inventions. No, really. It’s number 10 on a list put together by CBC in 2007, with input from such Canadian luminaries as Margaret Atwood, Mike Holmes, and Preston Manning. Poutine beat out standard time, the Bloody Caesar, and the BlackBerry, but was defeated by insulin, the telephone, and five-pin bowling, among others.
9. It’s in the dictionary. “Poutine” was the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the day on June 30, 2014, and was added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary that same year.
10. McPoutine is a thing. Well, it’s just called poutine. But McDonald’s now offers poutine as a permanent menu item across Canada. What better indication that poutine has, indeed, become as ubiquitous as the humble hamburger? At 510 calories, one order is only slightly lower-cal than a Big Mac.