t’s 3 a.m. You have just finished the last beer in your friend’s fridge—or put the final touches on a gruelling term paper. What better way to cap off the evening than with a heaping plate of fries, gravy and cheese curds—the Québécois delicacy known as poutine?
It seems students are gobbling up the fat-laden snack faster than they can say “Vive les habitants!” Several campuses listed poutine on their list of what’s hot. In fact, at some universities, poutine— Québécois for pudding—seems to have replaced nachos, wings, onion rings and the good old potato chip as the latenight binge-food of choice. Lori Thorlakson, a third-year arts student at Queen’s, describes the ideal serving: “There are two keys to great poutine. First, it has to be served on a plate—if it’s in a paper box it will get soggy. Second, the balance is very important: the gravy and cheese have to be spread evenly on the fries.” According to Thorlakson, the poutine at Lino’s, a Kingston, Qnt., landmark, is letter-perfect: “You could not imagine anything
greasier or gravier. As far as unhealthy evenings go, nothing tops one off better than Lino’s poutine."
But Mark Heasley, a third-year politics major at Wilfrid Laurier in Waterloo, believes “it’s all in the fries.” Heasley
swears by the poutine at Wilf’s, an oncampus eatery. “At Wilf’s, they’re light and crispy, yet they’re still covered in lots of gravy and cheese.” Wilf’s secret, according to kitchen manager Lynn Pauli: fresh-cut potatoes every day, fried to order and cooked at a very high temperature to avoid sogginess. And, she says, premium toppings cap off the appeal of poutine chez Wilf. “The gravy is thick and rich, and made from juices from the roast. And we use real, shredded mozzarella. We used to use cheese curds, but found they were too fatty.”
The immensely popular poutine at the Village Grec, a late-night spot near the Bishop’s campus in Lennoxville, Que., is made from less sophisticated ingredients. “There’s nothing special about it,” said an employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “It’s just frozen french fries, gravy and some cheese. But those kids go crazy for it. From Wednesday to Saturday, that’s all they order late at night.” Why do they love it so much? “Don’t ask me. It’s cheap, and it’s filling, and they are usually pretty intoxicated, so I don’t think they really care.” Undoubtedly, low cost is a big draw for this brand of comfort food. What Heasley
calls a “big honkin’ load” of poutine at Wilf’s costs only $3.30. “Three food groups are represented in poutine,” notes Heasley. “You’ve got your dairy with the cheese, the potato is a vegetable. And I guess the gravy used to be meat at one point, right?”
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