The First Poutine

This is my very first plate of poutine, and I’m having it at Big Bear Donair
(Ed. note: You’re welcome Karais and McCarthy)

I had to start somewhere, but my first poutine should be the best, right? So, I queried the public to ask – where is the perfect poutine in Whitehorse? With the most votes on my public poll, I got my first taste of fries, cheese curds and gravy at Big Bear Donair. With a whopping 189 out of 339 votes (55 per cent), it was clear where over of half of Whitehorse’s poutine lovers thought the best poutine was. And with a big empty belly I ventured out to find the best poutine in town.

Arriving at the busy and cozy Big Bear Donair restaurant for my first ever poutine, I had made sure not to have any afternoon snacks and was positively hungry. I ordered the regular poutine with my Canadian friends, one of whom ordered the chicken shawarma special. I requested their help as we chatted about the criteria card. Since they are Canadian they have had their fair share of poutines all over the country and could help guide me on my journey of what I should be looking for.

My poutine was ready and it was huge. I immediately regretted my decision to get the large instead of the regular. The French fries were covered in gravy with cheese curds sprinkled throughout. I had to take a bite before I started taking pictures because it looked too delectable. The first bite was followed swiftly by the next and before I knew it, I was shovelling it in my mouth destroying good picture opportunities.
I halted, pleased by the meal, but as I caught my breath, I noted it also wasn’t quite what I expected. From all the hype and discussion I had about poutine I thought perhaps the gravy had some kind of Canadianesque flavouring, like beaver or moose. I know, pretty stereotypical. But I really thought it was going to be a little more Canadian.
Still, delicious.

My friends Nicole, Marissa and I discussed the poutine. It’s all about the gravy-to-fries ratio and the cheese curds. Squeaky, yet with melted bits. And it held close to perfection, as my Canadian comrades compared to other poutines and as good as those Nicole had eaten in Quebec. With half my plate finished, stomach pains ensued. Apparently this is normal when eating poutine and it should come with a warning. Nevertheless, I finished this addictive meal, with stomach pains and all.

Whitehorse’s Perfect Poutine

After trying various poutines in Whitehorse from mainstream, commercialised McDonald’s, to international adaptations like Korean poutine, I have to say I may have had my fill of poutine for the rest of my life.
The winner of the best poutine in Whitehorse, I think, goes to Titan Gaming and Collectibles (below):

The Scores

1. Titan Gaming and Collectibles 19
I have to admit after Big Bear Donair I had thought that they had set the bar, but Titan just beat them after tallying the scores. The gravy was so tasty and the added flavoured salt just seemed to enhance this poutine.

2. Big Bear Donair 18.5
Pretty close to perfection, if anyone says you can’t get a good poutine in Whitehorse, they haven’t been here. Meets all the requirements for the perfect poutine. I also tried the shawarma poutine, which comes with a garlic sauce. I have to say I wasn’t a fan, but seems to be a popular favourite for Yukoners.

3. McDonald’s 16
I think memories played a big role in McDonald’s getting such a high mark. Those McDonald’s chips bring back memories to when I was a kid and I got a treat for being good or working hard by having McDonald’s with my parents. Sentimental I know, but this was super tasty and was gone instantaneously as I sat down.

4. Trails North 14.5
Definitely on the top side for the gravy, this roadside diner’s poutine is quite filling.

5. Mount Sima 13.5
A tasty and quick snack to eat while skiing on the hill.

6. The Hue Oasis 13.5
An extremely tasty Korean adaptation of poutine. The flavours were surprising, but worked very well together.

7. Whisky Jacks Pub and Grill 13
Even the regular portion is huge, so come with an appetite.

8. Burnt Toast 13
The pulled pork poutine is certainly an immense feed that must be tried.

9. Make it Yourself – No Name 8
Poutine sauce comes in a tin can, who knew? It was certainly an edible meal with No Name brand fries and poutine sauce.

Québécois or Canadian?

Poutine. This simple, but tasty dish, was officially put in the dictionary in 2014 and the CBC listed in the top 10 greatest Canadian invention of all time. Yes it was ninth, beating the electron microscope, snowmobiling and even superman. Meanwhile the Canada Project asked 1500 Canadians to determine their favourite iconic Canadian food and the winner at 22 per cent was poutine, followed by maple syrup at 14 per cent.

It seems from all the votes that this dish represents an entire nation. However, when I asked various Québécois about the dish’s national identity, they claim it’s not Canadian but Québécois.

When I ask non-Québécois Canadians, they believe it’s Canadian. “Twenty years ago you couldn’t get poutine outside of Quebec,” said my Québécois source. “Now you can get it everywhere – but it’s not real poutine.”

In 2016, academic Nicolas Fabien-Ouellet argued that classifying the Quebec creation as “Canadian” actually risks the province’s culture and customs being absorbed and assimilated by the English-Canadian majority. But is that the worry? Or is it just that poutine has to be made a certain way to be any good?

When I did a public Facebook poll asking for the best poutine in Whitehorse, a debate started among the Québécois community about whether it was even possible to find a “real” poutine outside of Quebec. But shouldn’t you be able to when there are a large number of Yukon residents who originate from the province?

Having travelled all over the world and tried the “best,” or original, places for foods, I can see the argument.
The best pizza in the world isn’t Italian, it’s from Naples (which is true in my opinion, having eaten pizzas all over Italy and the world). My experiences with the British was that their favourite national food has even changed from the traditional fish and chips to chicken curry, showing its national evolution in diversity and immigration.

And so the battles continue around the world as cross-culturally we merge together.

Don’t even get me started on the desert pavlova – no one can confirm whether New Zealand or Australia created the dish and it is a constant, nationalistic debate usually escalated during the Rugby World Cup.

Food and drink are often a source of hot debate, as many are proud to be where they are from and food can be a way of representing that pride. And no more do you have this feeling of nationalistic pride than when you are away from your home.
National Poutine Day is April 11 and now that I have eaten this fine delicacy, I will ensure I mark it on my permanent residency application for Canada.

From commercial overload with many Canadian fast food chains serving it for the masses, to foreign food restaurants adding their own unique design to the dish, poutine has changed from a Quebecois identity into a national identity, whether that is good or bad.

My personal opinion is it is super tasty, but nothing beats thick french fries and chicken salt with gravy from Australia – just saying. However, now I have my future 3 a.m. post-drunk snack, my PMS-stay-at-home-Bridget-Jones comfort meal ready to go!

Just how good Whitehorse poutine is, compared to poutine in Quebec, I probably will never know. But it’s definitely tasty and I guess I’m slowly becoming more Canadian, eh!

In search of the perfect poutine