Local historian Guy Raiche of the Société d'Histoire de Warwick traces poutine's roots to the late 1950s in Warwick, a small rural town halfway between Montreal and Quebec City. "It was created in 1957 at the restaurant Café Idéal," he explained. "A customer entered one day and requested that the owner Ferdinand Lachance give him fries and cheese curds together in a paper bag because he was in a rush."
Despite the unusual request, Lachance acquiesced replying, "ça va faire une maudite poutine!" ("that will make a damned mess!").
From these slapdash beginnings, the combination of fries with the region's celebrated cheese became a hit. "We have a lot of cheese products here. It started a bit like that because everybody was coming to the restaurants at the hour where the cheese would be at its most fresh," said Marie-Hélène Beaupré of Tourisme Centre-du-Québec. "So, at 17:00 everybody would go to the restaurants just to have the freshest cheese and freshest fries together." The addition of gravy came a few years later, and it wasn't long before poutine found its way to the cafes and snack bars of Montreal and Quebec City.
But while poutine now can be found dressed up with kimchi, seaweed and even fois gras, during those early years it was looked down upon as a working-class junk food and, at times, a subject of shame. The origins of its name, which translates to "mess" in English, could provide a clue as to why. In Poutine Dynamics, Fabien-Ouellet discusses how "for older generations, the very subject of poutine consumption is often avoided and the dish itself deprecated, often seen as an embarrassing culinary invention."