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March 23, 2011

DISCLAIMER: Apologies to the Quebecquois among you.

My husband is of French-Canadian descent with a number of famous relatives like Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne and Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville (the family records say that his DOB is actually July 20, not July 16, by the way).  Among other things, these brothers are credited with bringing the tradition of Mardi Gras to America along with some very delicious food.

In addition to that, he grew up in New England where they have regional food favorites like the lobstah roll (which HAS to be in a split frankfurter roll) and of course New England Boiled Dinner and Clam Chowdah (the white kind, not the red kind – that’s Manhattan Chowder which is an entirely other animal except for the clams.) There’s American Chop Suey (which is actually very good IMO – basically it’s ground meat, elbow macaroni, onions, tomatoes, tomato paste, Worcestershire and of course topped with the ubiquitous condiment ketchup.)

Now, when you combine Northern New England (not much south of Burlington, VT – unless you are in a French-Canadian area like the west side of Manchester, NH) and French-Canadian, you get Something Else Entirely. Yes, you get tourtiere (which I’ll save for a different post.) It’s not bad as long as you have a hacksaw to cut into it.

And you get This Other Thing…Something awful and dreadful and disgusting. Something that people from that part of the country absolutely adore. Something whose individual ingredients are delicious but when they are combined become … POUTINE!  WARNING: If pictures of food glop make you queasy do NOT click on any of the poutine-related links!!! I firmly believe this dish defies even the most skilled food stylists. (If there is something even worse than homemade poutine, imagine mass-produced poutine which is apparently sold by McDonalds, KFC, and Burger King in Canada. Eeeeeuwwwww.)

What is poutine? (yes, it is pronounced POOOO-teeen). It’s French fries, cheese curds (think cottage cheese or farmer cheese, drained, in largish chunks), and either brown gravy (just typing that makes me ill) or cheese sauce. All glopped together. BLECH. I have been assured by those who love it (my husband included) that it’s delicious. I couldn’t get a forkful of it in my mouth, even with my eyes shut. Just the THOUGHT of it makes me ill.

Poutine Chronicles will lead you to even more blogs about this dish…

However… if you live in L.A. and are feeling brave or curious or homesick…

Soleil in Westwood (that’s west Los Angeles, down the street from UCLA) apparently has great poutine. No, I don’t know first-hand but it comes highly recommended. If you can stand large photos of glop, click on the “Poutine by Soleil” to view the info (in a .pdf) about this dish.

Frankly, American Chop Suey looks a whole lot better to me!! (I should add that I love putting cottage cheese in a baked potato but then I add chili sauce rather than cheese sauce or the dreaded brown gravy…)

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