Posts Tagged ‘Montreal’
One of the first things you realize while wandering the streets of any major Canadian city is that it is a diverse and tolerant nation. From the hordes of West Indians living in Toronto to the masses of Chinese around Vancouver, the country is full of influences from around the world. While there is a general Canadian identity, which rallies to support the national hockey team, for example, each ethnic group in the country generally tends to continue to carry on its cultural heritage as well, without objection.
Ironically, the least tolerant of Canadians are often those who stand out the most themselves—in this case I mean the Québécois. Quebec is the French province of Canada, which has long been considered different from the rest of Canada. While the rest of the country speaks English, for example, Quebec’s official language is French. And because of Quebec, food labels and signs throughout the entire country are listed in French as well as English.
Montreal, the largest city in Quebec, is an incredibly diverse city, with immigrants from the Middle East, Caribbean, Asia and beyond. While the cultural and racial tolerance Canada is known for is generally found here as well, there have been problems with traditional Québécois taking offense to fresh immigrants who fail to adopt the French language.
It’s really surprising to me that in a country founded on tolerance, the very people who were allowed to maintain their own “different” French language and culture while everyone around them spoke English and created a new culture are the ones who object to a new generation of immigrants doing the same.
That being said, most Québécois are still very open to outside influences, and walking around Montreal reveals that a diverse spirit is generally still alive and well.
I have a theory that as sinful as it may be, food tends to taste better between the hours of midnight and 4am. We’ve all been there—in a group of friends fresh from a bar, whether drunk or sober, taking our seats at the Ihop, Waffle House, Chinese restaurant, Pho place or whatever happens to be open 24 hours in your neck of the woods. Without hesitation, we order the greasiest, heartiest selection on offer, and end our night fat and happy in the comfort of our own bed.
In Canada—and Quebec in particular—that overnight sensation is poutine. Don’t get me wrong—the French fries-covered-in-gravy-and-curd-cheese concoction is available any time of day, or so I’m told. But this is a food meant to be eaten in the throes of the night, with your tank on “empty”, and perhaps even slightly buzzed.
While poutine originated in Quebec (it is among the only truly “Canadian” foods), it is now easily found throughout Canada. While it sounds like the most grease bucket of foods, the “foodie” wave of recent years has lent itself to poutine as well. Today, you can occasionally find the dish covered with various meats, lobster, crab, shrimp and even caviar or truffles.
I recommend keeping it simple, however. Something about French fries smothered in gravy and grease and cheese screams low class, and I’d argue this national treasure is best enjoyed exactly that way.