Adventures in French Canada

Here are three delicious Québécois foods I discovered on my travels!

Firstly, poutine. This is basically chips topped with cooked cheese curds and light brown gravy. Sounds disgusting? Well, it might look like “chips with a cold”, but it is actually one of the best things I have ever tasted! Its origins are unclear but the story goes that a restaurant customer back in the 50s asked for cheese curds on his French fries, to which the owner replied Ça va faire une maudite poutine! – That will make a damn mess! hence the name. The gravy was added at a later date, apparently to keep the chips warm. I would love to make poutine at home, but the cheese curds are pretty hard to obtain in the UK. They are produced during the beginning stages of making cheese and they come out salty and “squeaky”, so using our grated cheese would not quite be the same.

Next is a queue de castor or BeaverTail. No, the Canadians are not chopping the tails off their national animal and eating them, thank goodness! This is actually a treat made from whole wheat pastry dough flattened and stretched to resemble a beaver’s tail and then float-fried on oil. It puffs up so that it is quite crispy and brown on the outside and softer and chewy on the inside. You can get sweet or savoury toppings on it, like sugar and cinnamon, maple butter, melted chocolate and bacon, or garlic and melted cheese. Even Barack Obama stopped off in the Byward Market in Ottawa to buy a queue de castor and some maple leaf cookies back in 2009!

Thirdly is the pâté chinois. When my new Québécois friends first invited me over to eat a pâté chinois, I thought, ‘I’m bound to like this: I love Chinese food’. Imagine my surprise when they served me up a shepherd’s pie with an inner layer of sweetcorn! The Chinese connection is to do with the story of this inexpensive but filling dish being served to railway workers by Chinese cooks during the building of the North American railroads in the late 19th century, but no-one knows for sure how it got its name.

There is nothing like getting to know a country and a culture through its food, and Québécois foods are an absolute delight!

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