A Big Hot Mess – The Poutine
By Trish Sebastian
What is about broken rules, reckless abandon, and blatant insolence that we find alluring? What is it in our psyche that causes our knees to buckle, all volition to dissolve at the mere sight of something we know to be an impediment, an agent provocateur?
These philosophical questions antagonize me in Montreal, about the closest thing to authentic France in Northern America, as I deliberate over a plate of poutine. I am surrounded by French restaurant after restaurant, by patisseries and boulangeries, the air thick with guttural and nasal noises coming from locals in every direction of me. Yet all I can think about is a silly bowl of fries.
In French culture where food – quality food – is revered and worshiped, where there are more do not’s than there are do’s, poutine is a middle finger up. Thick cut French fries doused in thick brown gravy topped with cheese curds (cheese curds!) and oftentimes bacon, poutine is Montreal’s (and of the region of Quebec) black sheep of dishes – irreverent and arrogant, spilling over with obscenity. Its name loosely translates to exactly what it is – a hot mess. What has the world come to?
Yet in my incomprehension, I had a sinking feeling in my gut that I am not equipped with any immunity against such a seduction to begin with. I never even stood a chance. Had I used a fork or even a soup ladle, the experience would have been less nasty. Excuse the dirty napkin. And after the plate has been cleared of every savory, rich glob of souped-up fried potatoes and cheese curds, I am only left to wonder how can something so bad be so good.