A crowded restaurant/truck stop is the only place near Bangor that sells poutine. It is very rare down in central Maine, so I could not be surprised by that fact, and I wasn’t. I was actually more surprised to see it so blatantly on the menu, when I had gone to Dysart’s many times before; for breakfast or lunch and not noticed it. I noticed it very clearly when it was being taken from the kitchen to be placed in front of me. Even from across the room I could see the gravy glint in the light.
The golden brown crisps below a layer of orange cheese and another layer of creamy gravy. This is what I ordered; This is poutine. I ready my pen and paper before digging in, grabbing a fry and taking a good look as the gravy dripped down. Appealing, definitely, and extremely heart clogging. The fries even look crunchy on the side that gravy has not soaked into. The cheese is still connected to the rest of the fries, stringing outward, holding on for dear life. I use the gravy covered fry to stir the rest of the gravy and cheese mix on top of the plate, gathering even more of the gravy and cheese onto its already covered body.
The moment it moves toward my mouth, I can start smelling a bit easier, without looking like a weirdo in a restaurant, smelling his food. We should all aspire to look like this, Logan Fried, yes, I can smell the frying that took place. The gravy is very prominent, smelling fatty and meaty, mixing with the smell of the fry in a manner that makes me think of comfort food, or a type of food that one should rarely eat. The cheese is not too noticeable, but it is there, giving off an aroma to float around the smell of the gravy and fries, and entangle them together in my mind. As the fry gets closer and closer to my mouth, and thus nostrils, the smells get stronger and stronger, until finally it is all I can smell. Even after placing the fry in my watering mouth, the smells stick around, ready to help provide background to the tastes.
The fry is crunchy, just as I predicted. The corners crunch under my teeth as the gravy is pushed onto my tongue with some stray cheese, sitting lightly and waiting for the now squished fry to join them. The heat from the fry, gravy and cheese is welcome, making my mouth an eager home for more. The now pasted fry mixes together with the gravy and cheese, creating a concoction of flavors. The fry is just as one would expect, starchy with an outer edge of toughness, from frying. The inside is soft and mushy, easily spread around. The gravy is thick and creamy, holding the fry and cheese in place, not letting them separate, and giving a chicken-like flavor to the whole, well-executed mess. The cheese holds onto whatever it can reach, adding a light hint to the flavor, but nothing overpowering. As I swallow, it slides down my throat easily, leaving a welcomed aftertaste. As I reach for a new fry, I notice something.
The sounds from the food itself are minimal, but around me are the sounds of people talking, eating, laughing. I look around and wonder if people are actually thinking about what they are eating, and I take a bite out of another bit of my dish. The crunch startles me a bit, and I notice a bit of saltiness from the fry, along with some sweet from the mix as a whole. The next few bites of the dish are less crunchy, and more chewy. The gravy has seeped into the fries, making them less crunchy on all sides, and changing the texture overall. The change is welcomed with a slight pocket of cheese, altering the taste and texture even further. Now the poutine is more like cheese with gravy and fries, and in a few pleasant bites I rid myself of the pocket. The melted cheese leaves itself sticking to my mouth, along with gravy and some fry, all on my tongue, all getting affected by the saliva that is filling my mouth. It goes down my throat nicely, and I continue to pick up another fry and munch on it for a small while, furiously scribbling notes.
As the poutine was placed before me, I lit up with a smile. This was going to be delicious and very satisfying. While eating, I could sense the decadence in the dish, wondering if I could survive healthily off of only poutine. I would lay back in my chair with a piece in my mouth and feel proud of the ridiculousness of the dish. It is grease, fat, and cholesterol all wrapped up on a plate, a food that was not a natural progression from another dish. Steak, for instance, can be very decadent and ridiculous, but that seems normal, given that a steak is such a common food, and it is usually kept by itself, with greens or potatoes. French fries, however, have had everything thrown on them. Cheese, chili, and now gravy and cheese? It is far from necessary, but I am glad that the creator of poutine had the inspiration.
The first time I had great poutine was when I came up to the Maine School of Science and Mathematics. I was headed to the local food place with Ben Doherty, and I saw that they served poutine. That made me ecstatic, as I remembered eating poutine at home over the summer. One of my elder brothers would make it at three in the morning as he played World of Warcraft and I played Xbox in the same room. This was a little slice of home in Limestone, a weird place with weird people. Eating the dish with my family just added to the pool of memories to draw from whenever I eat poutine. Now I can imagine my brother devouring his order and asking if I was going to finish mine, as I sat there wondering if his left leg was hollow.
No, I did not succeed in finishing all of my poutine. It was a well proportioned dish, but the starches in the french fries expanded in my stomach during some of my note taking. Poutine is the kind of dish where the only thing keeping one from stopping from eating more and more is the amount of starches, which cause one’s stomach to fill quickly and easily. This dish was not designed to be eaten easily, or extremely quickly, and I am glad. I enjoy eating poutine, and it is very satisfying, even if it can take a little while to satisfy.
After staring in awe at Cameron as he devoured the final quarter of my poutine, we got up to pay and leave. The food was great, the service was nice, and the experience was altogether good. As I was walking out, I thought about the next time I would have poutine, and I thought about writing this paper. The ride home was nice, as my stomach was full and I was getting tired. When I got home I got ready to lay in bed, satisfied with the food I had just eaten, and ready to start the next day. Fries, gravy and cheese… who would have thought how delicious that would be?