Poutine (//; Quebec French: [put͡sɪn] ( listen)) is a dish originating from the Canadian province of Quebec consisting of French fries and cheese curds topped with a brown gravy. The dish emerged in the late 1950s in the Centre-du-Québec area and has long been associated with the cuisine of Quebec. For many years, it was negatively perceived and mocked and even used as a means of stigmatization against Quebec society. However, since the mid-2000s, poutine has been celebrated as a symbol of Québécois cultural pride, and its rise in prominence led to popularity outside the province, especially in central Canada and the northeast United States.
Annual poutine celebrations occur in Montreal, Quebec City, and Drummondville, as well as Toronto, Ottawa, Chicago, and Manchester, New Hampshire. Today, it is often identified as quintessential Canadian food and has been called "Canada's national dish", though some have commented that this labelling represents misappropriation of Québécois culture. Many variations on the original recipe are popular, leading some to suggest that poutine has emerged as a new dish classification in its own right, just like sandwiches, dumplings, soups, and flatbreads.
The dish originated in the Centre-du-Québec area in the late 1950s.:12–31 Several restaurants from the area claim to be the inventor of the dish (Le Roy Jucep in Drummondville, Le Lutin qui rit in Warwick and La Petite Vache in Princeville) but no consensus exists.:12–31 Poutine was originally consumed in small "greasy spoon" type diners (commonly known as cantines or casse-croûtes in Quebec) and pubs, as well as by roadside chip wagons (commonly known as cabanes à patates, literally "potato shacks") and in hockey arenas. Today, poutine is found in all types of restaurants.
A common source for the founding of poutine comes from Drummondville. A restaurant in this town called Le Roy Jucep has registered a trademark which states that "The Roy Jucep" invented poutine. Jean-Paul Roy, owner of this restaurant in 1964, served the poutine as we know it today "fried potatoes, cheese and sauce". Mr. Roy, according to his testimony, started serving cheese with fries and sauce after the regular request of three people. Jean-Paul Roy died in August 2007 in Drummondville. The official patent, granted by the Canadian Intellectual Property Office, is posted in the restaurant.
One often-cited tale is that of Warwick restaurateur Fernand Lachance of Le Café Ideal, who is said in 1957 to have exclaimed, "ça va faire une maudite poutine!" ("It will make a damn mess!") when asked by restaurant regular Eddy Lainesse to put a handful of cheese curds on some french fries, hence the name. The sauce was allegedly added later, in 1962, to keep the fries warm longer.
Another legend is that the birth of poutine took place in Princeville at the restaurant La Petite Vache. The original designation the “Mixte" was 50-50 referring to a mixture of 50% fries and 50% cheese.
The Dictionnaire historique du français québécois lists 15 different meanings of poutine in Quebec and Acadian French, most of which are for kinds of food; the word poutine in the meaning "fries with cheese and gravy" is dated to 1982. Other senses of the word have been in use since at least 1810.
While the exact provenance of the word poutine is uncertain, some attribute it to the English word pudding. Among its various culinary senses, that of "a dessert made from flour or bread crumbs" most clearly shows this influence; the word pouding, borrowed from the English pudding, is in fact a synonym in this sense.
The Dictionnaire historique mentions the possibility that the form poutine is simply a gallicization of the word pudding. However, it considers it more likely that it was inherited from regional languages spoken in France, and that some of its meanings resulted from the later influence of the similar-sounding English word pudding. It cites the Provençal forms poutingo "bad stew" and poutité "hodgepodge" or "crushed fruit or foods"; poutringo "mixture of various things" in Languedocien; and poutringue or potringa "bad stew" in Franche-Comté as possibly related to poutine. The meaning "fries with cheese and gravy" of poutine is among those held as probably unrelated to pudding, provided the latter view is correct.
Heavy beef- or pork-based brown gravies are rarely used. To maintain the texture of the fries, the cheese curd and gravy are added immediately prior to serving the dish. The hot gravy is usually poured over the room-temperature cheese curds, so that the cheese is warmed without completely melting. It is important to control the temperature, timing and the order in which the ingredients are added, so as to obtain the right food textures which is an essential part of the experience of eating poutine.
There are many variations of poutine. Some restaurants offer poutine with such toppings as sausage, chicken, bacon, brisket or Montreal-style smoked meat. Some poutineries even boast dozens of variations of poutine. More upscale poutine with three-pepper sauce, merguez sausage, foie gras or even caviar and truffle can be found, a pre-Millennium trend that is credited to David MacMillan of 'Joe Beef' and 'Globe' restaurants fame. Some variations eliminate the cheese, but most Québécois would call such a dish a frite sauce ("french fries with sauce") rather than poutine. Shawinigan and some other regions have patate-sauce-choux where shredded raw cabbage replaces cheese. Fast food combination meals in Canada often have the options of getting french fries "poutinized" by adding cheese curds (or shredded cheese in the Prairies and Western Canada) and gravy, or subbing the fries for a poutine.
Sweet potato has been used to be a healthy alternative to french fries. The idea of adding dietary fiber and vitamins to this classic dish is widely endorsed by the public. Crinkle-cut fries may be used as well.
Chains such as Smoke's Poutinerie, New York Fries, McDonald's, Wendy's, A&W, KFC, Burger King, Harvey's, Mary Brown's, Arby's and Wahlburgers restaurants also sell versions of poutine in Quebec and the rest of Canada (although not always country-wide).
Poutine is found in northern border regions of the United States such as New England, the Northeastern United States, the Pacific Northwest and the Upper Midwest. These regions offer further variations of the basic dish, referred to as disco fries. Cheeses other than fresh curds are commonly used (most often mozzarella cheese), along with beef, brown or turkey gravy. Disco fries were popularized in New Jersey in the 1940s  but gained their name in the 1970s for being a favorite of late-night diners, who often came from dancing at a discothèque. In the country culture, a mixed fry can also come with cooked ground beef on top and is referred to as a hamburger mix, though this is less popular than a regular mix.
A cultural marker, poutine has long been Quebec's adored junk food before spreading out across the rest of Canada and the United States. It is said to be "the perfect thing after a night of drinking".
In May 2014, the word "poutine" was added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary of the English language.
In 2007, the CBC declared the outcome of an online survey on the greatest Canadian inventions of all time. Poutine arrived at No. 10, beating, among other items, the electron microscope, the BlackBerry, and the paint roller.
Poutine has been a highlight of the London, UK, "Canada Day" celebrations in Trafalgar Square for several years.
However, poutine has since made inroads into proper culinary circles, challenging its junk food status. Thus in 2011, well-known chef Chuck Hughes won on Iron Chef America (episode 2 of season 9) by beating out his heavyweight competitor Bobby Flay with a plate of lobster poutine.
In 2014, bacon-poutine was one of four flavours selected as a finalist in the Lay's Canada 'Do Us A Flavour' potato chip contest, although it did not win that competition. However, Lay's has since added a bacon-poutine variety in its 'Canada' entry for the 'World Flavourites', and Loblaws' President's Choice and Ruffles brands offer poutine-flavored potato chips in Canada.
Montreal hosts a competitive "La Poutine Week" every year in February. Members of the public can download an app in order to rate the poutines they have tried. Ottawa-Gatineau, Toronto, Calgary, Quebec City, Sherbrooke and others similarly hold their own weeks. Some United States cities such as Manchester, NH (NH PoutineFest), Chicago, IL, and Knoxville, TN, have festivals also.
The social status of poutine has dramatically evolved since its origin in rural Quebec in the 1950s. The dish was long mocked as a culinary invention and even used as a means of stigmatization used against the Quebec society to reduce its legitimacy.:74–109 While the first generations that suffered from the poutine stigma opted to disidentify with the dish, Quebec youth has recently been operating a reappropriation of poutine to positively revalue the dish as a symbol of Quebecois cultural pride.:74–109 Today, the dish is celebrated in many annual poutine festivals in Quebec, the rest of Canada, and in the United States. In March 2016 poutine was served at the White House during the first State Dinner between Barack Obama and Justin Trudeau.
The evolution of the different symbols associated with poutine were first studied by Charles-Alexandre Théorêt in Maudite Poutine!. Théorêt revisited many of these stigmas in an interview given at Tout le monde en parle on 11 November 2007.
As poutine gained popularity outside Quebec provincial borders in the mid-2000s, the dish gradually stopped being mocked and was eventually introduced into the popular discourse and symbol of Canadian nationalism. Today, the dish is often presented as being of Canadian cuisine, even as Canada's national dish. Nicolas Fabien-Ouellet, the author of Poutine Dynamics (a peer-reviewed article published in the journal CuiZine) has suggested that this "Canadization" of poutine constitutes cultural appropriation, despite the fact that Quebec is part of Canada. This appropriation is not linked to its preparation or consumption outside Quebec provincial borders per se, but strictly to its presentation as a Canadian dish instead of Quebecois dish.
In a Talking to Americans segment on the Canadian mock television news show This Hour Has 22 Minutes during the 2000 American election, comedian Rick Mercer posed as a reporter and asked several people (including then-Texas governor George W. Bush) what they thought of "Prime Minister Jean Poutine" and his endorsement of Bush for president. (The Prime Minister of Canada at the time was Jean Chrétien.) None of the interviewees noticed the insertion of "Poutine". A few years later when Bush made his first official visit to Canada as President, he joked during a speech, "I told [Prime Minister] Paul [Martin] that I really have only one regret about this visit to Canada. There's a prominent citizen who endorsed me in the 2000 election, and I wanted a chance to finally thank him for that endorsement. I was hoping to meet Jean Poutine." The remark was met with laughter and applause.
During the 2011 Canadian federal election voter suppression scandal, misleading phone calls registered to a "Pierre Poutine" of "Separatist Street" in Joliette, Quebec, were made in at least 14 ridings, including Guelph, Ontario. The fraudulent calls directed voters to the wrong polling stations. Through court orders of document releases from Rogers Communications the source of the calls was eventually traced and appeared to correspond to the campaign office of Conservative Party of Canada candidate Marty Burke.
Belgian Prime Minister, Charles Michel, had a Canadian lunch with Justin Trudeau on June 16, 2017, where they ate hotdogs and poutine. However, Charles Michel tweeted later that this was "A great way to meet a dear friend though our fries are better" (and it is a well known claim that potato fries were invented in Belgium and are famous around the world as Belgian frites).
Although the earliest evidence of the word "poutine" in an English publication is from 1982, historical accounts of the dish itself date to several decades earlier ... Some assert that "poutine" is related to the English word "pudding," but a more popular etymology is that it's from a Québécois slang word meaning "mess."
Granted, poutine came in only at No. 10. But it beat, among other things, the electron microscope, the BlackBerry, the paint roller and the caulking gun, lacrosse, plexiglass, radio voice transmission and basketball.