The mind-bogglingly fatty dish known as poutine is arguably Canada's most pervasive contribution to world cuisine. Considered at once repulsive and delicious, poutine is universally acknowledged as an agent of early death.

In its simplest incarnation poutine is composed of fresh french fried potatoes topped with good old-fashioned Quebecois cheese curd and dark chicken gravy, but the exotic innovations of lard-lovers know no bounds of creativity.

By most accounts poutine was originally popularized by restauranteur Fernand Lachance in the Eastern Townships of Quebec beginning in 1957, but the title of inventor is aggressively claimed by rival restauranteur Jean-Paul Roy, who, apparently suffering from a severe misapprehension of the basic concept of establishing priority, claims to have come up with the concoction personally several years later in 1964.

One thing everyone agrees on is that term "poutine" itself is derived from an Acadian slang term for "mushy mess" or "pudding" and is properly pronounced like this -- but variations abound, including poo-teen, poodyne, and poot'n. I have it on good authority from a web whore that poutine is pronounced "disco fries" in the big apple. Go figure.

Poutine cannot be found on any posh dining menu, but some of Montreal's finest chefs have been known to serve it to their kitchen staff at work and their own families at home, reportedly taking great delight in the dish. Recipes range from the most basic slop to pretentious gourmet preparations, with vegetarian falsies falling somewhere in between.

The LaFleur chain of restaurants is widely considered to carry a very authentic rendition of poutine using thick gravy and real cheese curd. In my opinion a passable anglophone poutine is put out by Lick's. Unsurprisingly, the least authentic offerings come from the big fast food chains like McDonald's, Burger King, KFC/PFK, Wendy's and Harvey's, consisting of frozen potatoes flash-fried with a syropy topping made of equal parts sugared pseudo-gravy and processed yellow cheese-food, little better than the "American gravy cheese fries" described by this extroverted young man.

Contrary to what weird rumours you might hear from befuddled Frenchmen, poutine is not something to be afraid of. Poutine has no meaningful connection to either the Kremlin or the Canadian Prime Minister, and, despite statements made by George W. Bush, poutine is infrequently employed as a surname except by cartoon characters.

Alarmists suggest that such unwholesome foods may soon be strictly regulated by fat lobbyists, but recent rulings suggest otherwise. Today and forever, poutine is a proud part of Canada's relentless march of cultural imperialism.

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