Ersatz Poutine, Holmes-style.


Let me take you back to 2000. This is in the Seattle era, so I’m still working at the costume shop and after politely declining the offer a number of times, I finally accept the title of “Assistant Manager” which includes an attendant pay bump, so in the spirit of adventure, I pack up the boom box (no car radio, doncha know) and a fistfull of cd’s and  a change o’ clothes and head up to Vancouver, British Columbia.

After a lovely three hour drive through light drizzle, I finally made it to the border. Not my first time in Canada, mind you, but the first time I had to deal with a border crossing and I was surprised how easy a process this was.  Mind you, this was Pre-9/11, so I can’t vouch for it now. Anyway, the American/Canadian dollar ratio was really favorable at that point, so I crossed the border with a pocket full of strangely coloured and textured money and was on my way. I can’t quite describe it, but the air tasted different. It was wonderful.

However, what I didn’t know, what I couldn’t have known, was that there was a massive hotel strike going on in Vancouver when I got there. My first goal had been to find a hotel and set up base camp and explore the city, but nothing doing. At every single inn/hotel/motel I pulled into, I was assailed by a bunch of angry Canadian hospitality workers that were claiming unfair treatment and my 23 year-old self wasn’t prepared to cross a picket line, so I mostly wound up driving around the city for most of the day. Fun, though not even close to what I’d hoped to do.

So after a few hours of this, I decide maybe I’ll head back to Seattle and cut my losses. It’s still light out and I would probably get home at a decent hour, afterall. But on my way out-of-town, as I’m driving by the airport, I notice a Holiday Inn that is remarkably free of picketers. I pull in, check it out: sure enough, the coast is clear. However, the airport is hardly close to the civic center and I’m tired from driving all day, so I check in ($90/Canadian), go to a Canadian McDonald’s (and I swear that it tasted different, too. Saltier, somehow), get a 6-pack of Kokanee and go back to the hotel room, resolved to enjoy my Canadian trip in my small, cloistered way.

As the evening drifts on, I happen across this show that is clearly marketed to Canadian teens, though the title now escapes me. Two hosts, one Indian and one good ol’ Canadian boy is all I remember. BUT…they’re doing a segment shot somewhere in Quebec about a local dish (“delicacy” came to mind, but this is hardly a delicate foodstuff) called Poutine.  The sight of this fries-and-cheese-curds-and-brown-gravy concoction caused a visceral reaction in me. I had to have it! Someday. I wasn’t leaving the hotel that night, and I wasn’t even sure if they had it in Vancouver, anyway. The one thing that stuck with me from the segment was the Indian gentleman’s assessment of the dish and it’s potency: “Most people eat this once, maybe twice a month. We’ve eaten it four times this week!!!” *cue slightly ill face*

So let’s flash forward this story a little bit. A lotta bit, actually. I’m living in Los Angeles and while I’ve never really forgotten about Poutine, I’ve long since stopped making it a priority. But a few years ago I was on a weird Craigslist date (Don’t ask. No data available.) and we go to this place on Sunset called Dusty’s, and what’s on the menu? YOU GUESSED IT! Not the most elegant date food, but it’s there, I’m there, I have to have it. However, what I’m brought resembles more the run of the mill cheese fries served other places, with a slight drizzle of gravy for show. I eat it, of course, but I feel less than whole. The rest of the date wasn’t much better, either.

And I’ve been telling myself for years that “one of these days, I’m just gonna fucking make it at home!” So this week I put my money where my mouth was, spurred on by Trader Joe’s Frying Cheese:

Frying CheeseTastes like string cheese with a slightly smokey undercurrent, and I figured this was a good substitute for the large cheese curds that are traditionally used. I have a feeling next time (and there WILL be a next time) I may be able to find something closer, but it got the job done. Oh, and don’t forget:


Now, the flavor of gravy, is totally up to the “chef’s” taste, and I think next time I do it I’m going to use either mushroom or turkey gravy just to see how it affects the consistency. I was also told last night by a survivor of this year’s Burning Man that the gravy needs to be thicker than what I had. Food for thought, pun totally intended.

So once the fries were all heated up, I warmed the gravy (which filled my apartment with a neat Thanksgiving smell) and nuked the cheese for 30 seconds (hey, that’s what the directions on the package said to do!) and bam: Poutine, Holmes-style.


Three bites in and the sheer caloric intake of it hit me, but I persevered and polished it off in no time. I think I have to concur with the Indian gentleman’s assessment: while a great fast food phenomenon, I don’t think it’s something I could eat all the time…but I DO have half a jar of gravy left over that’s gonna go bad if I don’t use it soon…

Probably gonna do a prodigious amount of crunches first. The Poutine experiment on top of a field trip to Sonic (details soon) have put me squarely off my training regimen. Was it worth it?

You bet your sweet bippy.


2 thoughts on “Ersatz Poutine, Holmes-style.

  1. I think that story makes up for it not being “flying” cheese after all! 😀

    Y’know, the Quebec Winter Carnival is on my bucket list. You speak the French, I’ll buy the fancy cheese fries!

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