You may have noticed that I create these random, non-sense theories that take a concept and tie it to something broader. There is the:
- Unicorn Theory
- Oil Change Theory
- Ketchup theory
- Catsup theory (no relation to the Ketchup theory)
- “Everything Applies” theory
- The 50-Mile Radius Concept
- “Coming Off the Mountain” Simile
- House Full of Rocks, and You Got The Hammer Philosophy
Last night I added a new one – the “Not-Poutine” theory.
For those of you who are missing out on one of the most incredible eating experience of your life, I am talking about a dish called Poutine. It originated as street-food in Belgium, but is more recognized as an Eastern Canadian dish that is especially loved in Quebec. It’s grown interest in the US recently because it makes for a good small sized appetizer that takes little to prepare. Poutine, on it’s surface, is quite simple — French Fries with Cheese Curds melted on top then covered in gravy. It is on par with candied pork belly and roasted bone marrow that is as over the top good as it also is over the top healthy. Think about it, Poutine is fried covered in melty yummy smothered in awesome – it’s so good your arteries start holding celebrations to welcome the cholesterol back into their neighborhoods. I had heard & maybe even tried it before I moved to Alaska, but a favorite hockey bar (yes, a bar devoted to watching hockey … which was pretty awesome if you ask me) served an excellent poutine.
Because of my gullet you would think I would avoid such stuff – on the contrary. I can only eat so much these days, and what I do needs to have protein (cheese) and sodium (fries and gravy). So … it works well for me.
Last night I visited a bar in downtown Fullerton called Hopscotch. It was a trendy kind of place in the way that is almost stereotypical “Hipster of the 20-teens”. All the women wore dress shirts and suspenders. All the guys wore vests and had beards. Every beer that was on tap was from a local brewery far from normal. They had whisky flights. They had a separate patio for the cigarette smokers and a separate patio for the cigar smokers. Most of the hipster types were younger, but there were some of us older people wandering through too. Yet the drink special was ‘the mixologist asks you some questions and makes a signature drink just for you … for about fifteen bucks’. What wasn’t hip was “ironic”. The place felt like the cover of a Mumford and Sons album.
Of course, poutine was on the menu. Of course I ordered it.
It was not Poutine!
Okay, maybe it was close, but it was like seeing a Rib-Eye with blue cheese melted on top placed next to a dinner roll and calling it a hamburger. Or seeing a the most gigantic Banana Split with 10 scoops of sorbet & six different topics & SPRINKLES … calling it an ice cream.
Poutine is supposed to have french fries. This had wedges of golden russet potatoes, baked in a herb sauce, then flashed fried to get crispness on the skin and edges.
Poutine is supposed to have cheese curds, that are more color and gooey and less flavor. This had a blend of locally sourced mornay and Havarti cheeses crumbled and touched lightly with heat, enough to bond together the potatoes. The tantalizing mix gives just a light tartness and a heavy sharp flavor in contrast.
Poutine is supposed to have gravy. This had gravy. This had duck-fat gravy. Gravy isn’t supposed to be named for an animal, its named for a color – Brown and White. It’s supposed to be like a punch in the gut – heavy and memorable. This was like getting punched in the gut by a duck breast perfectly rendered and seasoned to bring out the potential of a nice cut of fowl can bring to you.
Poutine isn’t supposed to have caramelized onions, in order to add an undeniable sweetness.
Poutine isn’t supposed to have fired capers releasing their gentle brine to pull the different flavors together.
Poutine isn’t supposed to be topped with herbs and parsley to bring out the woodsy scent of the intense mixture of flavors.
This was not Poutine!
Whatever it was, it was delicious. It was transcendent. It was this incredible mix of textures and flavors that blended so well together, but varied enough that each bite became it’s own adventure. It was one of those dishes that you sit back and think “I have to tell someone about this” (and then say “wait a minute, I have a blog that I can use to tell someone about this”).
Sure, it was ‘Not-Poutine’ … but that’s just a label. All that really mattered was that I liked it.
As I sat at that bar and reveled in the beauty of this ‘not-poutine’, I chatted with some of the bartenders, a couple of the hipsters that came up for a drink or two, and even some of the other non-hipsters that came in. On the TV, they were showing one of the presidential debates going on – which of course leads to all those angry thoughts people make about whether someone votes for one label or the other label. In my head what kept rushing through is that everywhere I looked – there was something to slap a label onto: Hipsters, Non-Hipsters, Presidential Candidates, smokers, non-smokers, poutine. I’m no different than anyone else, I am so busy trying to put labels on things, I don’t stop long enough to ask the simple question “do I like it”.
So there is where the theory began — We can spend all our time worrying about what we label something, or we can spend all our time figuring out if we like what we label. Do we like a Hipster because they are a Hipster or because they are a person. Does the Label make the man or does the man make the man. Just because they call it poutine, and it’s not poutine, can it still taste great.
Slap some catsup on that theory, and call it good.