When legendary U.S. journalist and food writer Calvin Trillin finally got around to trying poutine last year, he deemed it “surprisingly inoffensive” in an article for the New Yorker. That would adequately describe last night’s 11th annual Leacock Debate—which was to decide whether poutine should become Canada’s national dish—unless any ardent fans were to take umbrage with the oft-repeated breakdown of poutine’s essentially disgusting-delicious ingredients.
The debate itself, moderated by Trillin, had much in common with the Québécois staple. It was purely for entertainment, had no nourishing substance and was basically gravy to go along with dinner co-prepared by Anthony Walsh of Canoe. Here, a breakdown of the arguments for and against:
PRO: Proponents argued the importance of poutine in Canadian history, with CBC’s Carol Off claiming that General Wolfe’s victory on the Plains of Abraham was inspired by his triumphant, morale-boosting shout after overcoming constipation from a curious new food, “a thick and sticky mass of starch and protein.”
CON: Bob Ramsay invited anyone in the audience who had consumed poutine within the past week to stand up. Nobody in this crowd had recently needed to recover from a night of over-indulgence at Muzik.
PRO: Had we taken poutine more seriously, jested lawyer William McDowell, the whole Jaffergate scandal could have been avoided (a walk to the poutine truck would have cleared Jaffer’s head, while the dense meal would have soaked up the “demon rum”).
CON: Author Andrew Pyper argued that we have no right to claim poutine as our own: “There’s nothing Canadian about french fries.”
While those opposed eked out a slight victory, poutine actually has little competition for the national dish title. Canadian bacon is more of a side dish, maple syrup isn’t really a meal, and Timbits are just doughnut holes. That basically leaves us to choose between poutine and seal heart.