When you first discover Quebec you quickly stumble across Poutine – a glorious, calorie-laden, carb-fest that is touted as the national dish. Simple yet so good it involves chips (that’s fries to all you North Americans), gravy and squeaky cheese – squeaky because they are in fact rubbery bits of cheese curd that squeak when you bite into them.
Poutine is the perfect post-drink meal. Great on your way home from the pub or the next day when you’re nursing a hangover. Apparently the idea behind the addition of gravy is to keep the fries warm which is perfect if you’re leaving the pub any time between November and April in Quebec.
Whilst I’d never eaten poutine before arriving in Montreal I had the nagging feeling it wasn’t the first time I’d heard of it – and then up it popped during a news bulletin back in France: Vladimir Poutine, Président Russe. Yes the bare-chested, gun-toting action man that is the Russian President is synonymous with a soggy mass of chips, gravy and squeaky cheese in Quebec.
It turns out that the French found it diplomatically astute to go with Poutine as the transliteration of the President’s surname as opposed to Putin which the anglo-phone world uses. This is because Putin sounds exactly the same as ‘putain’ in French – an extremely versatile expletive that literally means ‘whore’. I can imagine the tense diplomatic negotiations at the UN when whichever committee deals with these things had to decide between the two, but Poutine won the day and I’m sure it won’t be long before the Russian President’s PR team have him wrestling alligators in a vat of gravy and squeaky cheese. Maybe we’ll catch a glimpse at the Olympics………..Bon appetit!