November 24th, 2011
07:00 AM ET
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Video producer Jarrett Bellini covers comedy for CNN. He has a really lustrous red beard.

I'm still not exactly sure how it's pronounced.

It's either POO-teen or PUT-sin. Or it could also be something completely different. I generally don't get things.

But however you say it, poutine is going to slowly (and deliciously) kill Canadians one at a time in a long nationwide drum circle of exploding aortas.

Trust me. It will happen eventually...and it'll totally be worth it!

I first discovered this traditional Quebecois cuisine while I was on assignment at the world famous Just For Laughs comedy festival in Montreal. (City motto: "Come for the full contact nudie bars, but stay for the full contact nudie bars.")

There, in that wonderful and vibrant worldly metropolis, everybody kept telling me: "You have to try some poutine." "You positively must eat some poutine." "Le le ble deux we we voo ble deux Poutine ble ble."

That last one was almost French and I made it up. But Google Translate thinks it means: "On the two weekends we voo ble ble ble ble two Putin."

I concur.

So, when I finally had a free night to try some of the local fare, I summoned the help of a local expert. His name is Mike Paterson, and his website describes him as a comedian, musician, and wrestler. Clearly, if there is someone who knows a thing or two about late night French fries, it's going to be Mike.

And if you need further validation of his credentials, consider that Mike has one of the most epic mullets in all of North America.

Actually, I’m not sure why that matters. But it is amazing!

After Mike's stand-up gig at the Comedy Nest we ventured off to a 24-hour restaurant called La Banquise. He said it was famous for its poutine – the very best in town. It was also right next to his house, so it's entirely possible he just wanted a free ride home from the club. However, the never-ending flood of customers convinced me that it was most definitely both.

At its core, poutine is simply a plate of French fries topped with cheese curd and gravy. Full stop. However, once you get the basics, the possibilities are limitless.

Mike is a vegetarian. So, naturally, his poutine came topped with sadness and boredom. Mine, on the other hand, came loaded with bacon, pork, hot dogs, and various other pieces of things that used to breathe and poop. It was called the T-Rex, but it tasted nothing like dinosaur. Seriously. I've eaten dinosaur. I'm very rich and well-connected. We have our ways.

Now, as I said, the core of poutine is simply French fries, cheese curd, and gravy. And I'm guessing that alone comes in at a caloric payload of, let's say, an entire jar of Crisco. Without any add-ons, you'll definitely still sweat grease for a week. And with the toppings... you've pretty much disqualified yourself from a life insurance policy.

But again - totally worth it.

Look, you shouldn’t eat poutine every day. It's drunk food, and when you've been out on the town pounding back beers the last thing you want is a side salad. You want starch and fryer grease. And if you're in Quebec, you want it topped with cheese curd and gravy.

I mean, of course, that's what you all want. But not me. I'm distinguished and wealthy beyond compare.

I eat dinosaur.

Previously - Ali Velshi loves poutine and Lunchtime poll – the tastes of home

World-renowned chef, author and Emmy winning television personality Anthony Bourdain visited Quebec for "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown." Follow the show on Twitter and Facebook.

Previously on Parts Unknown:
Colombian cuisine – from aguardiente to viche
The ever-changing flavor of L.A.'s Koreatown
Fall in love with Myanmar's cuisine

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Filed under: Bite • Canadian • Cuisines • Hot Messes • Junk • Parts Unknown

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soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. jim

    Do all Montrealer's eat this stuff and don't they realize how unhealthy it is? No, we don't all it it and yes, it certainly qualifies as junk food (though we don't call it that). It's comfort food and something you might eat once in a while. If you are in Montreal, try the grilled Portugese chicken, smoked meat, Vietnamese and Lebanese style food, which are real staples. And beer. Plenty of local brewpubs. McDonald's exists, but it is not nearly as popular as in the US.

    April 26, 2014 at 8:22 pm |
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    March 6, 2013 at 11:30 am |
  3. Jms

    My favourite part of this article: "Mike is a vegetarian. So, naturally, his poutine came topped with sadness and boredom."


    November 25, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Gozer the Gozerian

      Indeed. It comes dangerously close to winning the internets.

      November 28, 2011 at 11:48 pm |
  4. asec86

    You win Friday for the phrase "long nationwide drum circle of exploding aortas"

    November 25, 2011 at 9:01 am |
  5. lance corporal

    that's not a mullet much less an amazing one, and smothered fries aren't that unusual

    November 25, 2011 at 8:39 am |
  6. emma

    “I'll have the alfalfa sprouts and a plate of mashed yeast.”

    November 25, 2011 at 8:32 am |
  7. steve B

    I'm surprized us fat asses here have not imported that to the US.

    November 25, 2011 at 7:15 am |
  8. CC

    Also, I and most of the people I know call it poo-tin. I've heard some French people also say poo-tsin. Most English people pronounce poo-teen. It really easy to make. For the Americans just use shredded cheese since you can't get cheese curds in the US. I didn't know that learn something everyday. Cheese curds are amazing! Especially when they are fresh and still kind of warm. They get all squeaky!

    November 25, 2011 at 6:05 am |
    • Wisconsinite

      Cheese curds are available in the better parts of the US, like in Wisconsin for instance. ;) This is the second time I've heard about Poutine in the last couple months... must mean I'm supposed to eat it.... who needs life insurance and arteries anyway.

      November 30, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
  9. CC

    Ya poutine is nowa Canadian thing. It started in Quebec and I'd say they do it best. You can also use shredded cheese (poutine experts will roll over in their graves if you do). But it also works pretty well. I live in Ontario but am French Canadian (not from Quebec). So I started eating it at a very young age. First time/place I tried it was when I went skiing with my dad. I wouldn't feed it to my kids unless he was very active. It's very fatty!!!! But kids love the stuff.

    Please try it!!!!!

    November 25, 2011 at 5:45 am |
  10. Harry Baung

    Hey, what do Canadians think of the cartoon, South Park? (assuming it's shown on canadian TV) I'm curious. I've seen the comedy troupe Kids in the Hall, and South Park does have a bit of the flavour of Kids in the Hall...

    November 24, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
    • emma

      Canadians watch South Park and it is hilarious: I love how they make fun of American's ideas of Canada: 'Downtown Canada' ,'Canada Airport' and our affinity for Kraft Dinner [except we call it 'KD'].
      I cannot recommend poutine though: I have always though it was disgusting. Cheese curds are good, just not on fries; eat them with Kraft Dinner!

      November 25, 2011 at 8:24 am |
  11. Harry Baung

    I've never been to Canada but I've heard of poutine, which is supposed to be the official junkfood of Canada. There are supposedly a few places such as Buffalo New York where you can get poutine here in the U.S. but might not go by the same name. I've never eaten cheese curds in my life. I've never eaten poutine. Hockey and poutine. The McDonald's restaurants in Canada supposedly carry poutine as a local ethnic specialty menu item. I think maybe they serve beer too... it's interesting how international fast food chains feature special menu items in certain regions around the world.

    November 24, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
  12. Heather

    There's a place in Columbia, MD, Victoria's, that does a poutine with the fries cooked in duck fat with gruyere cheese, duck confit and duck gravy. It may not be the pure version, but it's damn good!!!

    November 24, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
  13. ks

    Love this dish-my kids ask for it everytime they come home to visit.

    November 24, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  14. g.

    Congrats on being the first American i know to actually realize the correct pronunciation of poutine. Even though many Canadians say POO-TEEN, the correct way to say it as mentioned above is Putsin as pronounced where the dish orginated.

    See for yourself:

    November 24, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
    • g.

      "as mentioned below"

      November 24, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
  15. Mileena

    This is what a REAL poutine looks like!!

    November 24, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
  16. Randall

    Due to a rediculous law that says CHEESE has to be at least 60-days old, you can't get 'curds' here in the U.S. Dumb.

    I'm Canadian. Cheese curds are simply the salt-rinsed hunks of cheddar before they are pressed into the molded shapes and left to cure (for some dumb 60-days). But BOY ARE THEY GOOD!

    Ignore that picture... I'm sure it was set up for this article. Take some good big hot chips fresh out of the fryer, throw a handfull of cheese curds on them, and smother the whole plate/bowl with homemade gravy.

    Oh... and it's POO-teen if you want to ask for it properly.

    November 24, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • Yvette

      I used to buy cheese curds in Iowa. Not sure if they're the same thing as in Canada, but they were very good.

      November 24, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • Mileena

      I am French-Canadian and it's actually not POO-Teen it's Poo-Tin. English folks say Poo-teen but if you want to say it like the French Quebecois where it originated from it's Poo-tin the correct sound :p And they are my choice of comfort food & drunk food!!! MMmmmmmm I think I'm gonna go and get one now!

      November 24, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
      • JennieInCanada

        I am ENGLISH-Canadian and I think it's super silly when people say POO-TEEN.. At the 2010 Winter Olympics, Michael J. Fox said "POO-TEEN" during his commentary and I dropped my head in shame and sadness.. POO-TIN all the way, baby! :)

        November 25, 2011 at 6:37 am |
      • emma

        Uh, Mileena, I am also a French Montrealer and everyone knows that the pronunciation 'poo-tin' sounds like putain which is French for wh0re. The proper French pronunciation is in fact 'poo-tee-nuh' [pou-ti-ne] though Quebec slang sounds more like 'poo-tzin'.

        November 25, 2011 at 8:29 am |
    • CDN Mummy

      Actually, Quebecers pronounce it put-sin. Been eating all my life here in Quebec and the absolute best place to eat one is from an arena canteen, any arena canteen where hockey is playing.

      November 24, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
      • Mileena

        Yeah it can sound like that... depends which part of Quebec you're in too. Every places has their accents, hehe! I'm from New-Brunswick and we say poo-tin.

        November 24, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • Rinsewind

      Hmmm. You can get cheese curds here in Oklahoma. I know that raw milk cheese has to be aged before it can be sold in the US, but I didn't think you had this rule with cheese made with pasteurized milk. Otherwise, you wouldn't be able to get fresh cheeses like cream cheese or queso fresco.

      November 24, 2011 at 8:34 pm |
    • Gretchen

      Wrong on not being able to get curds. You need to be somewhere that has a demand for them. You can definitely get them in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and parts of North Dakota at least. Just about anywhere that has a culture of cheesemaking has a culture of curds. No pun intended. (Next time you're in the Green Bay WI area check out Tom's drive in and order the Family Cord. Happy thanksgiving!

      November 24, 2011 at 11:05 pm |
      • Gretchen

        That was, Family Curd, not cord.

        November 24, 2011 at 11:06 pm |
  17. Craig

    That picture looks nothing like poutine. Looks like some soggy fries with mozarella sprinkled on top! Where are the cheese curds and gravy!?

    November 24, 2011 at 11:37 am |
  18. celisti

    anything but turkey on Thanksgivings, or any meat. go vegetarian!

    November 24, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • Gozer the Gozerian

      The only meat I won't eat is vegetarian. Tastes too much like pretentiousness, and they're way too stringy.

      Carnivores FTW!

      November 28, 2011 at 11:52 pm |
  19. Jarrett

    Dude, NOTHING stacks up to Filibertos at 2am... with the possible exception of Filibertos at 3am.

    November 24, 2011 at 10:29 am |
    • Gozer the Gozerian

      I don't know, but I'll see your Filiberto's and raise you one Adolfo's from Pueblo, CO. Also good at 2 or 3 a.m.

      November 28, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
  20. Rick

    Sounds good, but not sure how it's going to stack up to a carne asada burrito from Filibertos at 2am after a night of drinking...

    November 24, 2011 at 10:22 am |
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