THE ETERNAL POUTINE
Caught this article in the globe today. For anyone who enjoys poutine this will be a fascinating read!
From Wednesday's Globe and Mail
August 27, 2008 at 4:11 AM EDT
MONTREAL — Mixing fries and gravy together under a heap of cheese curds in Quebec is
known as the recipe for poutine. It also turns out to be a recipe for a good old-fashioned dispute.
The debate over who invented poutine, perhaps Quebec's best-known dish, doesn't quite compete with history's biggest paternity debates. But a festival in Drummondville this week devoted to the humble poutine has reawakened a real, if good-natured, rivalry between two cities that each lay claim to the culinary creation.
To the organizers of the Festival de la Poutine de Drummondville, the two-day celebration of music, curds and cholesterol is meant as an ode to a home-grown concoction that has emerged from its low-brow origins to become a culinary icon.
"Poutine was long considered junk food, but now people are reinterpreting it in new ways. It's being taken more seriously," said Simon Proulx, the lead singer with a popular Quebec music group, Les Trois Accords, whose Drummondville-born members decided to launch the festival.Enlarge Image
Musician Simon Proulx, organizer of Le Festival de la Poutine in Drummondville, Que., poses with a dish of poutine in Montreal this week. Christinne Muschi for The Globe and Mail
Their gathering will feature music as well as tastings of poutine - from the classic variety to Italian poutine with spaghetti sauce, and the latest, high-brow versions using foie gras.
But it is the organizers' claim that they are first to hold a festival devoted to poutine that is stirring up a controversy.
Over in Warwick, only 50 kilometres from Drummondville, the town proclaims that it first held a poutine festival in 1993. It lasted two years before morphing into the annual Warwick cheese festival, which organizers say is the largest of its kind in Canada.
The two towns, virtually neighbours in Quebec dairy country, can't see eye to eye over which is the rightful birthplace of poutine.
The city of Drummondville says it first mixed fries and cheese in the 1960s, when Jean-Paul Roy, proprietor of Le Roy Jucep, added cheese curds to fries and gravy at the request of his restaurant customers.
He later claimed the name came from mixing the word "pouding" with the nickname of one of his cooks, Ti-Pout; the establishment proclaims on its website that it invented poutine, and even shows off a certificate in the restaurant declaring "inventor of poutine" as a registered trademark.
Over in Warwick, however, a restaurateur named Fernand Lachance claimed to have invented poutine in 1957, when a customer asked for cheese curds to be added to his usual order of fries. Mr. Lachance put the ingredients in a wax-paper bag and threw in some salt and vinegar.
Mr. Lachance said he declared the concoction a "maudite poutine" - a damn mess.
"The people of Drummondville can try to claim the title of inventors of poutine. We won't sue them," the mayor of Warwick, Claude Desrochers, said from his dairy farm yesterday. "But they are performing acrobatics with the truth."
Mr. Desrochers says he is too busy to attend Drummondville's festival, which begins on Friday.
"I wish them good luck. I don't want to go to war over poutine," he said. "But you have to do unto Caesar what is Caesar's. Poutine is a very good dish that was created in Warwick in 1957."
The very existence of competing proprietorship of the dish suggests that poutine, at once publicly scorned yet secretly enjoyed, is gaining a certain kind of cultural status among a younger generation.
Charles-Alexandre Théorêt, author of the 2007 book Maudite Poutine!, says the dish was looked upon with a certain amount of disgust by his parents' generation. Now, younger Quebeckers enjoy debating where to come by the best version of the dish.
"It's not a symbol everyone is proud of. It's a dish that isn't elegant or chic, and is has zero health content," he said. "But it's an icon of junk food cuisine - Quebec's answer to the hot dog."
As for which town can claim to have put the dish on the map, that remains the subject for an eternal debate.
"It's an old rivalry, like the one between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens," Mr. Théorêt said. Just a little messier. "