Above: A dish of poutine, served in the Montreal restaurant La Banquise. (Photo/Dan Webster)
Slowly but surely, the country is reopening. I’m not ready to toss my masks yet, whatever the CDC, state of Washington or even our local officials say. But I’m close.
Fully vaccinated, I feel fairly confident walking in the open air around other people (as much as I ever am, at least). We’ve even had other vaccinated people over for dinner on our terrace.
But while reading an article on BBC.com, I began to feel the need to travel once again. And I don’t mean just a Sunday-afternoon drive through the Scablands. I mean going someplace that requires me to show my just-renewed passport.
The article I’m referring to traces the origins of poutine, the dish that has become a Canadian trademark. But as the author, James March, emphasizes, poutine has area-specific roots.
The area in question? The province of Quebec.
March quotes the food scholar Nicolas Fabien-Ouellet, who wrote this in a 2016 thesis titled “Poutine Dynamics”: “The dish should be, ideally, labelled explicitly as a Quebecois dish and not a Canadian one to further underscore the cultural context to which it actually belongs.”
I’ve eaten area-specific foods all over the world. Pizza in Naples, Italy. Fish and chips in London (though I enjoyed it better in Reykjavik, Iceland). Dim Sum in Hong Kong. Tandoori Chicken in Delhi, India. Hot Pot in Shanghai and tempura in Japan.
And it was during a summer visit to Montreal a few years ago that I, for the first and only time, ate poutine – that unusual concoction of French fries and cheese curds all slathered with gravy.
It was mid-morning when our entire family – including grandchildren – shared a plate at the restaurant La Banquise. We ate first out of curiosity, then with gusto. And whether Canadian or specifically Quebecois, I remember this: poutine proved to be a great complement to the rest of our breakfast dishes.
And, yes, apparently a local version of poutine has been offered in some Spokane eateries. But I look forward to the day when I can maybe eat some more in Montreal. It’s a great city to explore, but especially for anyone who likes good food.
It’s certainly something to look forward to post-pandemic.
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