A Canadian classic
By Brandon Yip, Senior Columnist
Interestingly, the origins of the word “poutine” have some asserting that it is related to the English word “pudding.” Yet a more popular etymology is that it is derived from a Quebecois slang term meaning “mess.”
Poutine was invented in Quebec in the 1950s, although its actual origins remain a contentious issue. Several restaurants in Quebec claimed and boasted to be the sole inventors of this delicious and tasty Canadian staple.
Charles-Alexandre Théorêt, author of the 2007 book, Maudite Poutine! states two cities in Quebec—Warwick, and Drummondville—have very believable stories about being the ones who invented poutine. “Poutine is the new fast-food queen, you know. It was invented in rural Quebec in the mid ’50s. We don’t know, we will never know [who the original inventor was],” Théorêt said in a CBC segment called We Are The Best.
For the most part, poutine is a simple dish. Yes, you all know what it looks like: hot fries laced with cheese curds on top, and then smothered with delicious gravy! And it is especially even more enjoyable during a cold winter evening or when craving a late-night snack. Théorêt says poutine has to be made a certain way for it to be perfect: “Crispy fries, thick, and tasty gravy, and of course the cheese. It needs to be squeaky; you need to hear it to taste it.” In contrast, French-Canadian singer, Mitsou, is not a fan of the Quebec delicacy, telling the CBC in a 1991 interview that poutine looked disgusting to her. She also said it reminded her of “the stuff that we got in our nose.” So much for her being the poster girl for the product!
Interestingly, the origins of the word “poutine” have some asserting that it is related to the English word “pudding.” Yet a more popular etymology is that it is derived from a Quebecois slang term meaning “mess.” Oh, and what a delightful “mess” it is! Also, poutine is included in the Merriam-Webster dictionary and is defined as “chiefly Canada”—with the definition stating that it is “a dish of French fries covered with brown gravy and cheese curds.”
Furthermore, in 2007 the New York Times wrote about poutine’s growing popularity—referring to it as the newest favourite dish in the Big Apple. Even the late Anthony Bourdain filmed an episode focused on poutine for his show No Reservations when he visited Montreal. Bourdain visited poutinerie La Banquise, where he ate five plates of poutine. “Meat, cheese, and fries—all on one fork. I feel so dirty, yet so alive. It’s like forbidden love,” he said. “I feel guilty eating any of these.”
Notably, one place that serves pretty decent poutine—and you may be surprised that they do—is Costco. Normally, Costco would be the last place foodies would go to replenish their poutine pallet. But at their food court, Costco serves their usual hot dogs, fries, pizza, chicken fingers, and drinks—but also included in their menu is poutine, which costs under $5.
Remarkably, Costco poutine is being shown some love online. Katie Machado, in her October 2020 article published on The Travel website about fast-food poutine, offers high praise for Costco poutine: “Due to its overwhelming presence on Reddit in terms of poutine and how often it’s mentioned as one of the best in a hurry. According to those on Reddit, Costco knocks it out of the park with their offering and, not to mention, it’s likely one of the largest servings out of any other on the list which, in terms of french fry to cheese ratio and weight, that’s a hefty lead.”
Lastly, I have ordered Costco poutine many times and it is surprisingly very decent. The portions are generous for what you pay for. The fries are hot and fresh, and the cheese curds are abundant—and the gravy laced on top is the crowning touch. It makes for a very tasty and filling meal. Like McDonald’s fries, you should eat Costco poutine immediately. Reheating it in the microwave the next day will lose much of its original quality and taste. Throwing it into the garbage may be a wise decision. So, the next time you are at Costco, order their poutine. It may not taste like the poutine made in Quebec, but it is a decent substitute. Trust me, you won’t regret it.