Episode 1: In which the Aussie experiences love at first bite
Poutine fosters friendships. Or, at least, it did for me – a freshly arrived exchange student from Australia. One of my first interactions at Concordia went something like this:
“So, have you tried poutine yet?”
“What! You haven’t truly lived the French-Canadian experience until you’ve had a poutine! We must take you to La Banquise.”
I admit, when I found out exactly what this food was I regretted revealing my poutine virginity. For a self-confessed health freak and gym junkie such as myself, poutine, AKA deep-fried potato smothered in oily gravy and topped with a mountain of cheese curds, was suicide on a plate.
However, when I walked down Rachel St. on a grey and icy Saturday evening and saw the inviting bright yellow exterior of La Banquise, I warmed to the idea. A queue of umbrellas extended around the corner. If people were waiting in the wind and rain – and notably with smiles and eagerness spread across their faces – surely poutine must be to die for.
People greeted trusty friends who had nabbed a spot in the line; families waited with impatient children. Others, simply craving a poutine, pushed through to get theirs take-away. My friends told me that La Banquise, open 24/7, is a popular destination for those on a drunken night out, perfect for a midnight snack. I secretly hoped I wouldn’t like poutine because my apartment was only an eight-minute walk away…
Once inside I glimpsed a variety of full, glistening plates of poutine decorated with guacamole, bacon, hotdog sausages and more. After seeing the menu I discovered that there were more than 30 types to choose from, but I knew that my first poutine had to be the original, “La Classique.”
Not long after, it arrived. Despite looking like glorified fast-food, the plate of poutine before me somehow conjured a golden, ethereal glow. Though perhaps it was my excitement – the prospect of abandoning my lame-arse diet for one rebellious evening – that distorted my perception. Within moments of taking my first bite I knew there was no turning back – it was dangerously delicious.
Once I’d proudly finished my poutine I thought, was that just the entrée? Despite being a four-foot-eleven girl, I have the appetite of a teenage boy. I looked at my friends’ unfinished plates and considered polishing theirs off too.
Poutine: I had never experienced anything like it in my life. In fact, I was so absorbed in every mouthful that I missed half of my friends’ conversations. I tuned in when I heard “pouding chômeur…a dessert crossed between a pudding and cake,” and “sucre à la crème,” other French-Canadian specialities. As I curiously think what my next fine dining experience will be, I wonder whether my friends have set me on a dangerous new path…