Classic Poutine - Detail - © Wendy's Canada

Poutine Deserves Official International Recognition!

Canada’s Food Guy, Dr. Sylvain Charlebois, suggests that Poutine should receive World Heritage status. Like Neapolitan Pizza or the French Baguette. And he says that would be a great way to celebrate the dish’s 60th birthday!

Russian Poutine Truck - © Melanie Marquis - Canadian PressThere’s even an authentic Poutine truck roaming the streets of Moscow!

Yes… It’s Poutine’s 60th birthday this year. And Charlebois has not only proposed a bold move by the Federal Government to mark the occasion. He’s also been bold enough himself to ‘set straight’ the origins of the classic Canadian treat.

The Real Truth

Charlebois quotes himself, in his book Poutine Nation (2021), claiming the word ‘poutine’ first appeared on the menu of a Drummondville, QC, diner run by Jean-Claude Roy in 1957. That early variant of the dish is said to have been composed of only french fries and fresh cheddar cheese curds. No sign of the gravy that makes ‘modern’ poutine the culinary wonder that it is.

A Warwick, QC, resto, operated by Fernand Lachance and his wife Germaine, originally served a version with madame’s secret sauce on the side, for dipping. But it was Fernand who brought together fries, curds and classic brown diner gravy, creating the first real Poutine in 1964.

I’m persuaded that, technically at least, Lachance does deserve the honour. But I’d still like to know: Did Roy ever offer gravy – either on the side or on top?

According to Wikipedia: “Many variations on the original [poutine] recipe are popular, leading some to suggest that poutine has emerged as a new dish classification in its own right, as with sandwiches and dumplings.”

As we all know, the humble Habitant dish has become a world-wide favourite. And it’s become emblematic of Québec. To some, it’s become representative of the whole of Canada.

Be that as it may…

Charlebois says there’s only one condition still to be met to allow Poutine to be vaunted by UNESCO, the United Nations cultural agency, in the pantheon of official Intangible Cultural Heritage ‘elements’.

“UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural agency, has been declaring intangible cultural heritage since 2003, including dishes like Neapolitan pizza, French baguette, and Chinese traditional tea,” Charlebois notes. Problem is, Canada hasn’t signed on to the appropriate international convention… Yet.

“Canada has the opportunity to change this by not only becoming a signatory to the convention but also by nominating poutine as the first Canadian dish to be declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.”

What makes it so special…

“Part of what makes poutine so special is its ability to bring people together,” Charlebois waxes philosophical. “Whether you’re enjoying it at a roadside chip truck in rural Québec or a trendy restaurant in a cosmopolitan city, poutine has a way of creating a sense of shared experience. […] It’s a dish that transcends borders and cultures, bringing a little piece of Québec and Canada wherever it goes.”

So true. There’s even an authentic poutine truck on the streets of Moscow. And there are many exotic places you can order it – including Singapore.

My take

Charlebois puts it elegantly: “Let’s recognize poutine for what it is: a true success story and a culinary masterpiece that deserves its place among the world’s most beloved dishes.”

Let’s all get behind the professor’s push to have Canada sign the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity convention. And nominate Poutine as the first Canadian addition to the culinary Role of Honour!

~ Maggie J.

1 Comment

  1. Thanks Maggie, great piece.

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