When the weather turns cold and gray and wet, we (and by "we" I mean "I") turn to comfort food. And what better place to find it than here in Quebec, home of poutine and steamies.
It's difficult to explain poutine (pronounced "pootzin") to someone who has never experienced it. It's like trying to explain an orgasm; once you've had one, you just know, but until then, it all sounds pretty sketchy.
Poutine doesn't sound or even look remotely appetizing, so it's hard to convince visitors to give it a try. Basically it consists of french fries, topped with cold cheese curds then smothered in hot barbeque chicken gravy. It's important that the curds are cold because the idea is to prevent them from melting completely under the hot gravy so that when you eat them, the cheese squeaks against your teeth. As you dig through the hot fries however, the curds do get gooey and the strands end up plastered all over your chin. Definitely not a First Date Food, although if my husband-to-be had taken me out for this, he could have skipped the whole flowers and movie and sweet-talking schtick and just fast-forwarded to third base. What can I say? I turn into Carb Gal every fall. (Not in the other three seasons, no sir. Just raw veggies and tofu for me in those seasons.)
Where you go to get your poutine is also clutch. You'll find roadside stands called casse-croutes or chains like Lafleur's or La Belle Province all over Quebec. The fries are best when fresh and cut by hand, and if you can get them cooked in lard, better still. Proper fries are always cooked twice, once to cook the inside, then again to brown the outside. Unlike McFries, they are fat and soft and greasy, real chest-clutchers. The gravy is also important, as it shouldn't be too salty and have a nice, robust, spicy flavour.
Then of course there are the steamies "all dressed" which are simply hotdogs stuffed in top-loading, steamed buns which are slightly soggy and chewy (the rest of Canada uses side loading buns apparently, and why does this NOT surprise me?) Then you smother it in onions, mustard and fresh coleslaw, most of which ends up down the front of your shirt. They always come in pairs.
Toasted buns are always offered on the menu. No one ever orders a toasted bun. Ever. It's like a chef's salad in the land of the Golden Arches. They offer it, but they don't really mean it.
Sure this meal is loaded with fat and sodium and pig parts you probably don't want to know about. It'll kill you if you eat enough of it, but you'll die with a big greasy smile on your face.
I guess I should go on a field trip and experience it firsthand. For my readers' sakes.
You'll have to come hither and try it for yourself.