I really do. In fact, like so many Canadians, I became hooked on this glorious meal while travelling through Quebec on the day that Poutine entered this very world. Normally I’m not a fan of travelling through our French province, basically because I simply don’t speak the language, but hey, they have beer in their corner stores, so that was enough for me, and this is why I was in Montreal on the day that put Poutine and Canada on the world culinary map.
It was a rather tragic day actually. It was hot, humid, and the bustle of mid-week traffic in the city was almost too much for anyone to bear. I remember that day as if it were yesterday, but as we all know, the day that led to the invention of Poutine happened almost 4 decades ago.
It wasn’t the sound that caught my attention at first, but rather something out of the corner of my eye that didn’t seem right, and there I saw it, a white and orange cheese truck completely out of control, its driver slumped over the steering wheel as it barreled into the oncoming lanes directly into the path of a delivery van. The collision was inevitable, and the face on the driver as he watched that cheese truck coming towards him haunts me to this day. I would later learn that it was the van driver’s first day on the job delivering for the Canadian Hot Beef Gravy Company. The poor fellow never had a chance. If I remember correctly, he left behind a wife, two children and a dog.
The head-on crash threw the contents of the cheese truck forward just as the gravy van was rolling itself onto the cab of the truck. Boiling Beef gravy headed east, and a large container of fresh cheese curds were westward bound. People were screaming and running in every direction to escape the mayhem, some became trapped, especially those who were at the point of impact in front of the Chip wagon awaiting orders of French fries that were bubbling in the deep fryers inside.
There truly was no time for anyone that close to react, and as the sounds of the disaster quickly subsided to the sobs and whimpers of those injured, there arose an odd calmness in the crowd. It was the smell - a smell of something new. The smell of something that drifted for blocks, and quietly, and in an almost paranormal orderly fashion people gravitated towards the scene of the crash and began scooping with their hands into the mess of French fries, cheese curds and gravy. In the distance the sirens of the oncoming emergency vehicles could be heard, but the crowds were too thick to allow them through. As more and more people arrived, Pierre, the dazed owner of the Chip Wagon could not believe his eyes, It took a good hour for his stock of potatoes to run out, and his hands were blistered and almost raw from scraping the curds and gravy onto orders of fresh cut fries for his customers.
By morning, the wrecked vehicles and dead people were removed, and the streets were completely washed of their gooey mess. Promptly at 10:00, Pierre arrived with his chip wagon to begin another day to an unprecedented crowd of people, all hungry for orders of Pierre’s Poutine.
And that my friends, is the honest to goodness story of how Poutine came to be.
I kid you NOT!
I WAS there!