Joaquin Contreras: Poutine à la Maine can be a mess but it’s a lavish mess

A plate of poutine is served at the Governor’s Restaurant in Lewiston. Joaquin Contreras / Journal of the Sun

Oh Poutine, oh sumptuous snack. My sin, my soul. It’s a pleasure like this that will make you look over your shoulder in guilt. Did you just moan in public? If anyone asks, show the poutine – they’ll understand.

There’s an overriding urge behind the flavors at play here: hot and fatty, sweet and salty intertwined, eagerly smoking, waiting to be ravaged, and when you finally find yourself with a clean plate, it’s like an unmade bed. which slightly smacks of past passion.

Joaquin Contreras

Poutine is a mess, literally: that’s what it means in Quebec slang. but what is it exactly? I had never tried poutine before dining at Governor’s in Lewiston, and I was a little hesitant; maybe confused would be more appropriate. It was not at all as I imagined, and for better or for worse, not as the average Quebecer would imagine.

Traditionally served with fries, cheese curds and gravy, Governor’s eschews the norm, replacing regular fries with sweet potato waffle fries and the sauce with syrup. Pieces of chicken fingers littered the fries under a web of melted cheese. Maple syrup is called “sauce” by Governor’s: it does not have the viscous consistency of syrup, but not to the detriment of the dish. You’re there for the heavy stuff anyway: the meat and the potatoes, the stiff strings of cheese between the fries that crackle when you pull them apart.

Sweetness is cool, but it’s essentially the icing on the cake, the piece de resistance that Governor’s has been in business since 1959. Governor’s Restaurant and Bakery was originally Creemee’s, an ice cream stand owned and operated by Leith and Donna Wadleigh. The current name comes from Leith’s custom of calling each client “Governor” at the Regular show. Since then they have diversified into six locations.

All the elements of poutine work well with each other. The fries are crisp (as long as you don’t let them sit too long in the sauce, but if that’s your thing, more power for you) and the chicken is lean. It really is a snack, something you can choose and snack on, but as a fast food restaurant it fails which can be the antithesis of the purpose of the meal.

But why would anyone want to rush through this? Since its inception in the 1950s, poutine has enjoyed strong popularity in rural Quebec, popular in greasy spoon restaurants across the province. It’s an ideal conversation starter: if you don’t talk about it, you inhale it absent-mindedly while discussing something far less interesting.

Poutine has since become a Canadian staple with global appeal: it was served at the White House during the first state dinner hosted by President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2016. Canada doesn’t get big – something, especially in terms of food. , eclipsed by the cuisine of its colonial ancestor and French-speaking siblings, but there’s no denying the ingenious complexity of such a simple combination of flavors.

During a visit to Canada in 2017, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel met Trudeau for a lunch of hot dogs and poutine, then chopping it on Twitter on the superiority of Belgian fries. Belgium is one of the many countries which claim to have established fries.

As Americans, we have the advantage of being in the bottleneck; the center of the hourglass that is the North American continent, the colors of our two neighboring nations running through and fitting into the fabric of our collective tastes. Canadian influence in Maine stretches back by the time Maine achieved statehood in 1820. Lewiston is home to the largest French-speaking population in the country.

One really wonderful thing about food is that it can act like a mirror, reflecting the tastes and sensibilities of a region. Governor’s poutine is Mainer’s poutine, through and through. The maple syrup used in the sauce comes from a farm in Bridgewater. The dish’s creator, Jason Clay, is the governor’s director of operations. In 2017, Clay was experimenting with what makes the dish work so well and thought about adding regional flavors, ultimately creating a “different and playful version of the original”. They added poutine to the menu as a limited time promotion and have since grown in popularity; a big reason being the portions. “Most people take it for a starter,” Clay said.

Diners like these, cultural and culinary pillars of the Americana, are members of a fraternity of timeless institutions that have set the standards for American cuisine. Maybe the beauty of dinner food is that it can’t really be identified – they are niche variations of traditional, safe, and familiar dishes.

Comfort food is often the simplest, a living mantra on the governor’s menu.

Joaquin Contreras is a writer and Sun Journal foodie. When not working, he spends his time watching movies, running, cycling and cooking.


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