Every pizza is a celebration. Whether it’s delivered, homemade, or crazy-flavored, a pizza is a pie full of joy. It’s a celebration of life, our liberties as eaters, and the pursuit of happiness through tasty food. Food is so good.That’s why there are so many food-related holidays. And that’s why, across the globe, we honor so many holidays with the delicious foods that we love.
Well, today is no exception. HAPPY CANADA DAY, pizza freaks! To commemorate Canada’s 150th birthday (which is tomorrow), we’ve pizza-fied one of our favorite Canadian treats: POUTINE. Check out our Poutine Pizza episode, and you can find the recipe below! And, trust us, this is one you need to try.
But, what exactly are we celebrating on Canada Day? What is poutine, and how did it come to be? Feast your brain on this:
What is Canada Day?
Like we mentioned, tomorrow is the 150th birthday of Canada! Back in 1867, on July 1st, the 3 British colonies—Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick—united into one dominion, called Canada. At the time, that dominion was still a British colony, not yet it’s own country, and the day became known as “Dominion Day.” It wasn’t until 1982, over 100 years later, that Canada became a completely independent country. That’s when the name officially changed to “Canada Day,” and it became the national day of Canada.
It’s now a HUGE holiday in Canada, and among Canadians living abroad. Ottawa, Ontario is often seen as the hub of the celebration, but you can find events planned across the country in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, and Victoria. What else happens on Canada Day? And, like other major holidays, it comes with its share of celebrations:
- This weekend, Canada is alive with parades, carnivals, festivals, fireworks, concerts, and (of course) plenty of amazing food.
- One common Canada Day treat is a beaver tail, a stretched and deep fried doughnut, typically topped with cinnamon sugar! This beaver-tail-shaped treat traces back to the 19th century, when aboriginals cooked the tails of actual beavers over an open fire so they could access the meat inside. The beaver is pretty important to Canada—it’s their National Symbol!
- People in British Columbia drink 2 million liters of beer (that’s over 300,000 gallons!) during the Canada Day long weekend!
- On the 100th birthday of Canada (in 1967), people in Nanaimo, B.C. turned bathtubs into motorboats and had a 58 km (36 mi) race across the Georgia Strait to Vancouver! Now there are bathtub races held every year.
Another reason for all of us to celebrate the birth of Canada: it’s Santa’s official home! The address “Santa Clause, North Pole” is located in Canada, so all letters written to Santa all get sent to Canada. The letters are answered by volunteers, who reply in more than 30 languages!
The Messy History of Poutine
What is poutine? French fries, cheese curds, gravy—sounds simple enough. The word poutine is thought to come from the English word “pudding” (which is pouding in French), but is actually Québec slang for “mix” or “mess.” Though most of us Americans say “poo-teen,” it’s actually pronounced “poo-tin” by the Québécois. It’s a signature Québec staple of their casse croûtes cuisine, which translates literally to a snack or light meal, but has also become known as “greasy spoon” cuisine. (Fitting name, though we recommend getting your hands dirty.)
But like the culinary genius of so many cultures, this Canadian classic was likely invented by accident. The most widespread tale takes us back 60 years to Québec in 1957, when a trucker was in a rush at a restaurant and asked the owner, Fernand Lachance, to throw his French fries and cheese curds together in one bag. Before handing the bag over to the trucker, Lachance looked into the bag and said, “Ça va te faire une maudite poutine!” which means “That will make a damned mess!” And what a beautiful mess poutine has become. Lachance even started serving this mess at his restaurant because he realized topping the fries and cheese curds with gravy kept the fries warm longer.
But, it wasn’t until 1964 that poutine became an official menu item. There was a restaurant near Drummondville, Québec that was well-known for its dish of fries and gravy sauce, and it was common for customers to order it with side of cheese curds to add on top. Noticing this, the owner, Jean-Paul Roy, officially added the fries-curds-gravy trio to his menu, at first under the name “fromage-patate-sauce.” The dish spread from small towns into Québec City. It became popular as a street food and on food trucks, and has since inspired new additions and flavor combinations—all of which we believe are worth celebrating.
Precious Poutine Facts
- Today, poutine is so popular in Québec that even McDonald’s and Burger King sell it as a side.
- There are endless variations of poutine (much like beloved pizza): Italian poutine, made with spaghetti sauce instead of gravy; veggie poutine, made with mushroom sauce and vegetables; Irish poutine, made with lardons; la galvanade, made with chicken and green peas; Montréal-style, made with smoked meat.
- Poutine even made its way to the U.S. in the 1970s, when New Jersey and New York nightclubs served an Americanized version: Disco Fries, which used shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese instead of cheese curds.
- You can find poutine in plenty of other countries, like the United Kingdom, South Korea, and Russia (where it’s called Raspoutine).
- The largest poutine in the world was made in Québec and weighed 4,000 pounds, and was topped with 600 pounds of pulled pork!
- In 2014, Matt "The Megatoad" Stonie from California won Toronto’s poutine-eating contest when he ate 14 3/4 pounds of poutine in just 10 minutes!
- At Au Pied de Cochon in Montréal, there’s a $23 poutine au foie gras (topped with duck or goose liver). There are also other high-class variations on poutine, like lobster poutine and braised beef poutine.
Soul Mates: Pizza & Poutine
To some, poutine and pizza may seem like distant second cousins. To us, they’re soul mates, connected by the universal bonds of cheesiness, sauciness, and carb-o-liciousness. Poutine, we love you, and we celebrate you today. We grant you the honor of total pizza-fication.
Your fries have begged to be baked into a crust. Your gravy is undeniably saucy. And your cheese curds have long awaited melting atop a Poutine Pizza pie. So here we are, poutine, granting your wish on this 150th birthday of Canada. And to you, dear pizza freaks, we give you POUTINE PIZZA. Eat (the pizza) and be merry.
French Fry Crust
- 1 lb. frozen French fries
- 1 cup shredded whole milk mozzarella cheese
- 2 Tbsp salted butter
- 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- 1 cup beef broth
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1 tsp ketchup
- salt & pepper, to taste
- cheese curds
- Bake fries at 425°F (220°C) for 20 minutes (follow instructions on your package).
- While fries bake and get crispy, make your gravy. In a sauce pan, melt butter.
- Add in flour and garlic powder. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, but be careful not to burn the flour!
- Gradually incorporate beef broth and chicken broth, whisking intermittently.
- Continue to whisk until no lumps remain.
- Mix in ketchup, salt, and pepper.
- Bring to a gentle boil, then simmer for 10 minutes.
- As soon as fries are cool to the touch, line a 12 inch skillet or pizza pan with your fries. Use the sides of your skillet or the edge of the pizza pan as a guide to make a circular crust and place the fries in a single layer. (Feel free to break fries into smaller pieces, so you can fill in all holes and gaps! You want a nice, even layer.)
- Sprinkle 1 cup of shredded mozzarella evenly across your French fry crust. Be liberal with the cheese! Make sure it’s covering the entire pizza crust.
- Bake at 400°F (200°C) for about 5 minutes.
- When crust is baked, remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.
- Add gravy and cheese curds to your pizza crust.
- Bake for another 3 minutes, until melty and delicious.
- Remove from oven, drool, and eat the Poutine Pizza!
Yields 1 scrumptious Poutine Pizza