A cook prepares a poutine at La Banquise restaurant in Montreal on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. The Quebec dairy industry trying to get a protected trademark for the popular Quebecois dish. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

A cook prepares a poutine at La Banquise restaurant in Montreal on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. The Quebec dairy industry trying to get a protected trademark for the popular Quebecois dish. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

‘Protect our poutine’: Quebec dairy group looks to give gooey dish official status

National strategy could help fries-and-gravy concoction become trendy ‘like sushi or tacos’

A group representing Quebec’s dairy industry says it’s eyeing a special government designation for the term poutine in order to better promote it internationally.

Luc Boivin, a cheese producer and member of the Conseil des Industriels laitiers du Québec, says the traditional dish of fries, cheese curds and gravy has become a source of national pride.

“Almost everyone has a story to tell about a poutine, whether it’s after a hockey game, or coming out of a bar at 3 a.m. and going to get a poutine at La Banquise in Montreal or Chez Ashton in Quebec City,” he said in an interview Tuesday.

The owner of Fromagerie Boivin, based in Quebec’s Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean region, believes poutine is set to become the next big food trend, like hamburgers, tacos and sushi before it.

In order to capitalize on the dish’s growing popularity, Boivin says a working group is forming that will seek to create a national branding strategy to help producers collectively market their products. The group is also looking at obtaining “reserved designation” status, which is an official recognition by the Quebec government of the authenticity of distinctive regional food products.

He said the project is in its early stages, and it’s not yet clear whether the group will seek out simple recognition for the dish, or a more protective mechanism that would restrict outsiders from using the term.

While the details are still being worked out, the eventual goal of the campaign is to protect and promote the identity of poutine as a Quebec and Canadian product. “Like pizza is Italian and sushi is Japanese, we have to protect that identity,” Boivin said.

He said the success of poutine is one of the rare bright spots in recent years for Quebec cheese producers, who are still dealing with increased competition stemming from the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement.

He believes there’s a huge opportunity in exporting the cheese curds, which are the signature ingredient in poutine and are made primarily in Quebec. Curds are shipped frozen, making them relatively easy to export, he said.

He said the regulatory process is likely to be complex, since dairy is a highly controlled industry. But he’s allowing himself to dream of the day when sports stars such as NHL player Sidney Crosby or football player Laurent Duvernay-Tardif could be called upon to promote a homegrown product.

Sylvain Charlebois, a professor of food distribution and food policy at Dalhousie University and the author of the book “Poutine Nation,” said poutine originated in Warwick, Que. in the late 1950s when a customer came into a restaurant and asked owner Fernand Lachance to add cheese curds to his fries. The dish was further refined in 1964 when Jean-Paul Roy, a professional sauce-maker in Drummondville, added gravy to the dish, Charlebois said.

It was later picked up by local restaurants, and has since become popular worldwide. “What poutine has accomplished in 50 years, it took pizza 110 years,” Charlebois said in a phone interview.

He agrees that something should be done to “officialize” poutine, which he describes as the first dish that is “truly Canadian.” However, he prefers an approach that seeks to recognize the origins of poutine rather than trademark it.

He said a protective approach would create more bureaucracy and regulation and overlooks the fact that one of the dish’s main appeals is its flexibility and ability to be customized to all tastes. He suggests Canada instead follow the lead of France, which has submitted a proposal to UNESCO to have the baguette recognized as an intangible cultural heritage symbol.

A similar designation for poutine would help to celebrate its heritage, its ingredients, such as cheese curds, and its unique story, he said.

“It’s a rural story, and very rarely will you see a dish created in a little village that becomes world famous,” he said.

— Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press

RELATED: Competitors scarf down poutine for champion title in Kelowna

RELATED: Burritos, miso soup and key lime pie among top 10 ordered foods in B.C.

Just Posted

Shuswap Litas and Sons of Stomp head out from uptown Askew’s parking lot on Thursday, June 10, some with teddy bears and stuffies, to ride to Pierre’s Point by Adams Lake community hall to show their support for band members in the wake of the confirmation of 215 children buried at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
Shuswap bike clubs ride to support Indigenous communities

Motorcyclists go to Pierre’s Point in solidarity with bands in wake of residential school findings

The Shaw Centre and the SASCU Recreation Centre are the two largest producers of greenhouse gas emissions on City of Salmon Arm properties. (Martha Wickett-Salmon Arm Observer)
City of Salmon staff surprised COVID not cause of drop in greenhouse gas emissions

2020 sees emissions on city-owned properties decrease well below 2019 totals

Interior Health is offering mobile vaccination clinics for the first dose only of COVID-19 vaccine in the Shuswap from June 15 to June 19h. (Interior Health image)
First-dose vaccinations for COVID-19 offered via mobile clinics in Shuswap

Clinic in Salmon Arm scheduled for June 15, other clinics in Sorrento, Malakwa, Chase

The price per litre of regular gasoline was at 145.9 cents at several gas stations in downtown Salmon Arm on June 11, 2021. (Zachary Roman - Salmon Arm Observer)
Gas prices pumped up in Salmon Arm and Sicamous

Price spikes from 131.9 to as high as 145.9 cents per litre

Residents line up outside the Vernon Recreation Complex for their COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, June 5. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
No appointments necessary for first dose COVID-19 vaccine: Interior Health

People can just show up at clinics, register on the spot and get the shot

Dr. Albert de Villiers, chief medical health officer for the Interior Health Authority. (Contributed)
Black Press Media Weekly Roundup: Top headlines this week

Here’s a summary of this week’s biggest stories from the Okanagan-Shuswap

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Her death is considered a homicide and connected to the slain brothers found on a Naramata forest road. (Submitted)
Naramata community in shock as condolences pour in for homicide victim Kathy Richardson

Richardson was well liked in the community, a volunteer firefighter with a home-based salon

British Columbia-Yukon Community News Association’s 2021 Ma Murray Awards were handed out during a virtual ceremony on Friday, June 10. (Screen grab)
Black Press Media winners take gold at B.C. and Yukon journalism awards

Publications received nods in dozens of categories

Princeton GSAR responds 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. In 2020 the crew was called out 34 times, and members spent 721 hours on calls, and 683 hours training. Photo Princeton GSAR Facebook
Teen missing in Manning Park found after 24 hours

Young man spends night on mountain and survives with just a few scrapes

The RCMP are asking for assistance regarding the death of Kathleen Richardson of Naramata, pictured here. Her death is believed to be related to two homicides in Naramata in May. (RCMP)
Police identify South Okanagan homicide victim as 57-year-old Naramata woman

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday

Two e-scooters parked on the sidewalk along Water Street in downtown Kelowna on Monday, May 3. Scooters parked on walkways are causing accessibility issues for some people with disabilities. (Michael Rodriguez/Capital News)
Kelowna General Hospital clinicians observe increase in e-scooter injuries

A report is set to go to city council next week on how the e-scooter pilot has gone thus far

Fair-goers take a ride at the 120th annual Armstrong Interior Provincial Exhibition and Stampede Aug. 28-Sept. 1, 2019. (Katherine Peters - Morning Star)
Armstrong’s IPE not eligible for COVID-19 grant designed for major attractions

Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo criticized the rigidity of the provincial program’s criteria

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets campers while visiting McDougall, Ont. on Thursday, July 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
71% of B.C. men say they’d prefer to go camping with Trudeau: survey

Most British Columbians with plans to go camping outdoors say they’d prefer to go with Trudeau or Shania Twain

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

Most Read