Man vs. Poutine

Alright, to start off with, let's define "Poutine". Here is the Wikipedia definition which is, for once, pretty accurate: Poutine (play /pˈtn/; Quebec French) is a dish of French fries, fresh cheese curds, and sometimes additional ingredients, covered with brown gravy or sauce.
Now, Poutine is to Quebec what Chicago-style Hot Dogs are to Chicago...a regional peculiarity that has taken on a life of it's own.

Last night, I and two friends from the program here finally felt strong (or foolish) enough to take on a true Montréalaise Poutine at what is reputedly the best restaurant in Montréal for an authentic Poutine, La Banquise. Here's my photo-documentary of the battle:

First, we arrive...the restaurant is a little grungy, loud, crowded and smells strongly of grease. I begin to feel uneasy...

We are shown to our table and are left with enormous menus. There are 28 different types on Poutine on the menu!!! We ladies decide on a "Poutine Classique," which is just gravy, cheese curds, and fries. The male member of our group decides on the "Poutine T-Rex," which has ingredients as terrifying as it's name...fries, gravy, cheese, bacon, pepperoni, ground beef, AND hot dogs. Holy moly. In addition, we are told that we have to pay for our meal in advance. Was this because a large number of patrons don't survive the meal, thus stiffing the restaurant on the bill? My uneasiness grows...

Now, I haven't had a beer in probably 10 years, but I decide to go all in. If I'm going to die, I might as well die while attempting to have a truly authentic experience. Even so...terror!

So, the food arrives and it's time to dig in. The taste is...good! Wow! It's like cheese fries from Ed Debevic's with a twist...hmmm...never been a fan of gravy, but somehow combined with copious amounts of grease, potatoes and cheese, it's miraculously delicious! We attack...

After a few forkfulls, though, we begin to feel the challenge. This is some HEARTY food. Wow. After having crossed the province on a dogsled in -40 C weather, this is exactly what you'd want to eat. On a summer night after having sat in class for 6 hours...mmmmm...not so much. But, we did it!! We won!!! We beat the Poutine!!!

Unfortunately, not all members of our group were as tough as others...here's the tragic story of Greg vs. Poutine T-Rex (remember poutine + 4 kinds of meat!!).
Cardiac arrest on a plate...the T-Rex!

Show no fear!
Well, he did it, but at what cost??
M.I.A...where did he go?
The aftermath...poor Greg.

And the irony of it all? That Greg proclaimed far and wide that he was tougher than we ladies. Ha! Enjoy, his capitulation video (it's in French, but essentially he's saying that we're stronger than he is!)...I know I did!


Photo montage...

So, I'm feeling a little lazy today and also feeling very visual, so I'm just going to share some photos from the last few days with captions. Holler if you want me to elaborate on any of these...they're numbered for reference...teacher 'til the end, eh? :)
1) Ka-pow! Musée des Beaux-Arts, Montréal
2) Love dans la rue...Plateau Mont-Royal

3) Moon, streetlights, and the "Theater of Today"

4) Modern dance in the park, Parc du Lafontaine

5) Albino Squirrel!!! Seriously, pink eyes and all!

6) Conversation over coffee, classmates at Maman Clafoutie

7) Gummi fighter planes anyone?
8) Chez nous...the DORM!
9) Stairways...Plateau Mont-Royal
10) Le cinéma...went to see "Les Femmes du 6e étage"...2 thumbs up!
11) "Look up for a minute"...a good reminder



The flags of Quebec, Canada, and Montreal respectively...
Don't be scared off by the big word...it just means "thoughts". There hasn't been too much going on lately around here since everyone is immersed in their projects, which are due on Thursday. Mine is, believe it or not, DONE...I swear. And this leaves me some time for rumination.

One thing that I thought about today, thanks to my granddad (Merci, Granddad!), was the fact that even the existence of Quebec as a francophone region is something pretty remarkable. We have been learning a lot about the history and the reasons for Quebec's continued linguistic and cultural existence, but suffice it to say that they have fought for their continued survival. Hard. Anglophone/francophone relations can continue to be strained here in the "Great White North," but Canadians seem to keep a sense of humor about it...at least some of the time. We had a class on Québécois film yesterday and the professor showed us a clip of a film called "Bon Cop, Bad Cop" which does just that. Essentially, a dead body turns up on the border between Ontario and Quebec, half in one province, half in the other. A francophone and an anglophone police officer have to learn to work together. Check out the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2TwhiLUCOwE

We also had a session today on Québécois music, which I was, of course, a big fan of. All except the clips of Céline Dion and her ilk...gag. There are tons of festivals here in the summer, a lot of them centering around music. The night after I got here, some of us went to see the closing concert of the Montreal Jazz Festival, which was the B52's! I don't know what on earth they have to do with jazz, but it was fun. This is my current favorite song by a Québécois artist named Ariane Moffat...she's singing about coming back to Montreal after being away...enjoy! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmTFuQ-InWk

Art, or junk??
Since I seem to be on an arts theme here, I'll close with visual arts. We visited the Musée des Beaux-Arts and they had some interesting exhibits...everything from Napoléon's hair (seriously...ew) to über-modern art installations. Some of the contemporary art, I was not a fan of...I just kept asking myself, is this really art?? Maybe my sister, Dr. Laura Evans (PhD in Art Education) could enlighten us? Here is the work in question...

I'm not completely obtuse when it comes to art, though. There are some contemporary pieces that I like. Though I didn't see this in a museum (it was actually in a shopping center), I thought it was really cool how the artist used all recycled materials to create this "pond'...if you look closely, you'll see that they're all water bottles, cardboard and coke cans, among other recyclables. And I guess some people would say this was junk...and now we're right back where I started this commentary! All this rumination is hard work!


Québec, Québec?

I don't really understand places that name a major city after the name of the larger entity. For example, Mexico City, Mexico...or more to the point, Québec City, Québec. We spent the entire day there yesterday and in spite of the lack of creativity in the naming of the city, it was really beautiful! Very European in a cobblestones and winding streets kind of way. See for yourselves :)

Luckily, we had an absolutely gorgeous day for our excursion. We arrived late morning and hopped on a ferry to take us across to the city. The views from the boat were amazing and gave us a little taste of what was to come.

If you have ever traveled in a big group or, worse, led a large group, you know how challenging it can be to even walk a block without losing anyone. Complicate that with the fact that the group is made up of people of different ages and fitness levels, people that have different ideas of what a normal walking pace is, and people who have completely different priorities (taking a gazillion photos, listening to the guide, making sure no single ray of sun touches their skin, smoking, making fun of people, souvenir shopping, etc.)...it was interesting to say the least! I can't say that I learned a whole lot about the city of Québec, but I saw enough to know that I'll have to get back there before this trip is over.
When traveling in a big group...keep your sense of humor.

Our tour concluded with a visit to the observatory, which gave us crazy views over the city and the surrounding area. We were promised a "coquetail" (anyone, anyone?...that would be "cocktail" :)...we got our cocktail, but with it got a sales pitch trying to sell us on the idea of studying in Québec. Those of you who know me pretty well can probably guess that I didn't need a whole lot of convincing. A second masters degree in Comparative Literature from the Université de Montréal...oui, merci!

Château Frontenac...currently a hotel going for $400+ a night. Must be pretty comfy.
À Québec, ça roule!
More practice for becoming Canadian :)