Canadian WORD OF THE DAY: Poutine
Squishy, mushy, gravy fries originating from Quebec. Canadians LOVE this hefty snack. Not for the weak at heart. Or the lactose intolerant – these babies have cheese curds. Warning: do not consume with the same zest as French fries, unless you enjoy being cleaned bottom-side-out by a five-pound brick.
I fear today’s entry might spark some rivalry amongst readers. In efforts to dissuade the yee old battle Ei and I often pretend doesn’t exist (We love Canada! All Canadians love Americans!), let me start with some field notes.
Americans have a hard time pinning down a national cuisine. Pizza? Italian. Spaghetti? Italian. Chinese food? Chinese. French fries? French. (What Ei? Nice try – no one’s gonna fall for the ol’ “Friench fries are really American” trick.) Sure we can claim burgers n’ dogs – many do enthusiastically, meat juice trickling down their chins. As vegetarians, Ei and I are just another strain of American weirdos with unidentifiable - probably un-American - tastes (Next 4th of July, I call seconds on the corn on the cob!).
There is an upside to not having a core “American” cuisine, though. It’s a reminder that our individual meals are all stewed in the big U.S. melting pot; America, land of the mutts.
Well, Canada is a bit of a mish-mash too. Especially Toronto. When I walk the ten blocks from my house to Eileen’s, I cross the compartmentalized, concretized countries of Korea, Greece, Ethiopia, Italy, and Portugal. Think they face a similar culinary identity dilemma? Oh Canada, you better believe it.
Enter: Poutine. The emblematic, bald eagle-esque, traditional Quebecois/Canadian dish. From its name you might imagine a meal quite similar to how it actually tastes – warm, soggy, starchy, blobby. But to Canadians, poutine is like George Clooney on a plate. He’s unmistakable. He’s everywhere. He’s adored by die-hard fans. When I first tasted it, I held my tongue – partially because I was afraid to ignite a cross-culture war – partially because, had I shifted the tepid glob of gravy fries, I might’ve puked. Since then, a soft spot has started growing in my heart (if not my mouth) for the soggy snack. How could it not when it means so much to my brothers here? Poutine, the golden star in every greasy Torontonian spoon, is real Canadian food.
Now all that brotherly love junk I just mentioned? All that stuff was true. Don't forget it.
Ok, here goes.
The International Poutine Eating Competition took place in Toronto last weekend…
The championship winner… was… American.
Sorry Canada. It pains me to report that the only gold medal you can claim your own – the one, genuinely beloved North American rock star that was yours and not the states’ – was symbolically stolen from you Sunday:
Hailing from Chicago, Pat “Deep Dish” Bertoletti inhaled 13 pounds of poutine in ten minutes, blowing native participants out of the water.You got ahead of yourself, Canada. You let your hunger, your love for poutine, carry you away. You organized a competition to celebrate your national cuisine without considering your chiseled American competitors. Your eyes were too big for your modest stomach.
Let’s face it, no one can match the American gut. This wasn’t the first time you were overshadowed by the girthy figure of our United States - (What Ei, I’m in the middle of something? Yeah, I know they have a lower rate of heart disease, and…
Yeah…..... . . . . . . . . . )
Heh. Ok – Americans, when I said “girthy” I meant…
Let’s take a quick break everybody.
(Ok Ei, what the hell. I know somebody should be embarrassed here – but who? I’m so confused.)
Well, Canada, looks like maybe you didn’t lose this round. Crisis averted – no black eyes today! Alrighty well I’ve got loads of field notes to transcribe – gotta run – see you guys next time! Cheers! (Yeasurewellcoveracheersnothertimeon