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Vermont Quarterly

Poutine Press

Nicolas Fabien-Ouellet with take-out poutine
Photograph by Owen Egan


Poutine Press

March 2016, when Nicolas Fabien-Ouellet, a grad student in food systems and Quebec native, read that the Obama White House had poutine on the menu—as a Canadian national dish—for a state dinner with that country’s new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, it raised an eyebrow.

The Quebeçois concoction made of french fries, gravy, and cheese curds was once mocked by Canadians as declassé junk food favored by the lower strata of Quebec’s French-speaking community. But increasingly, as with the White House dinner, poutine is celebrated as Canada’s national dish, a cultural appropriation sleight of hand.

That transformation absorbs, dilutes, and ultimately weakens the culture of the Quebeçois minority that created it, Fabien-Ouellet contends in a paper published December 2016 in the peer-reviewed, open-access journal CuiZine: The Journal of Canadian Food Cultures.

The media in Canada and beyond quickly took to the poutine scholarship. All told, more than thirty news stories on his paper have appeared to date.

“I knew that the concept of cultural appropriation would be of interest, but I could not have predicted that I would have to wake up every morning to a live interview show or go on live TV or do interviews over the phone for a week nonstop,” Fabien-Ouellet says.

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