In search of the perfect poutine

To celebrate National Poutine Day on April 11, Kylie Campbell has explored Whitehorse’s poutine offerings for us. PHOTO: Kylie Campbell

Is it possible to find good poutine in Whitehorse – even though we’re the farthest you can possibly get from Quebec?

September 26, 2016 – the day I arrived in Canada with wide eyes, little money, my entire life fitting into a single rucksack, but happy to be back to an English-speaking country for the first time in two years. Realizing the similarities and differences between Canada and Australia, as like living in the United Kingdom, I’ve slowly learnt that I need to say “garbage” not rubbish, exaggerate my “R” to sound like a pirate, and that Canadians like to keep you on your toes when it comes to measuring something.

Height of a mountain: imperial.
Distance to the mountain: metric.
Your weight and height: imperial.
Speed limit: metric.

I’m still confused, but the common response when questioned why Canadians don’t stick to their official metric system status, “We don’t want to offend anybody.”

Like many Aussies “fresh off the boat,” I went to a ski resort in B.C. a.k.a Bring Cash. Plodding away and being miserable, wondering how anyone affords to live in this country, I grew disheartened.

Was I ever going to see anything in Canada? Would I get to experience anything?

Six months later in the spring of 2017, I had a modified car, a little cash and vague idea to head north for a new life. This was met by Southerner’s warnings: “People are crazy up there, it’s not safe. The men are really dangerous,” or “You can’t sleep in your van, grizzlies will tear open the door and kill you,” or “It’s so cold up there, you will freeze to death.” Not joking, these were serious comments from actual Canadians, none of whom had ever been further north than Jasper.

Ignoring these “warnings” and heading into the Northern abyss, I came to unique Whitehorse and, surprisingly, discovered only the second place I have ever wanted to stay in my life. Since being up here, I am lucky to have a good job, have joined some incredible volunteer organizations, have seen amazing parts of Canada, am having new experiences, and am slowly making friends and building a life.

Like many who go to live abroad, we do always have a checklist of things we want to do while there, however long that list may be and how much time we get to do it. My list included – and I have checked off – meet a Mountie, see a moose, bear and beaver, try maple syrup, go sledding, drive the Alaska Highway and Icefields Parkway. Others still on the list, yet to do, are see a professional hockey game, go ice-skating, walk/swim in the Arctic Ocean, go heli-skiing and eat poutine!

Yes, this Canadian delicacy was still on my list after being in Canada for well over a year. Why wait you may ask? I had thought I was only in Canada for two years – a very short time to see such a large and diverse country and I like to experience the “real-deal,” so I had thought I would first try it in Quebec.

Since that was not going to be a reality and Canadians were constantly in shock that I hadn’t eaten it yet, I thought, “What better way to celebrate my time in Canada and my one year milestone in the Yukon than to have the most Canadian dish ever?”

So here I am, in one of the farthest places from Quebec, the originators of this dish, but with the third largest Francophone community in Canada, wondering if, in fact, there is a perfect poutine in Whitehorse. I went to the experts to find out what would make the perfect poutine.

What Makes the Perfect Poutine?

Before I could determine what would be the best poutine, I had to find out what my criteria should be. If a poutine doesn’t have cheese curds, is it in fact poutine? If it’s not in a traditional form, such as with additions like shawarma or pulled pork, is it in fact poutine? What would be the criteria to assess the best poutine?

So I asked the Association franco-yukonnaise for some help and we developed a “Poutine Criteria Card.” I need to assess the French fries, gravy, cheese curds and its holistic union that brings the dish together, from both a traditional and un-traditional poutine.

Each category gets a score from 1 to 5 (5 being the highest mark) and an overall score to determine the best poutine in Whitehorse. The highest possible score is 20.

The excitement and anticipation of what this Canadian delicacy will taste like is beckoning. Will I be able to find the perfect poutine this far north? Will it be as good as everyone says? Will I start saying ‘Eh’ straight after?
So many questions. Wait until next week’s issue to see the results…

In search of the perfect poutine

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