Poutine: French fries smothered in gravy and cheese curds.

According to the nursery rhyme, Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet and began to eat her curds and whey. For anyone growing up outside of North America, they could be excused for never quite knowing exactly what a curd is. That is, of course, until they visit French Canada.

Cheese curds are pieces of fresh cheddar cheese before they are processed and aged into the more common varieties found on the supermarket shelf. With a mild flavour and rubbery texture, fresh curds squeak against one’s teeth when bitten into, creating quite an unusual dining experience.

These squeaky treats are best known as a vital component of poutine, Montréal’s most popular greasy spoon experience. Hereby a bowlful of french fries are saturated in beef gravy and sprinkled with cheese curds – a late night guilty pleasure that will make an honorary Québécois out of any newcomer to the region.

The use of cheese curds has spread to other Canadian provinces and also south of the border to their American neighbours. Enveloped in batter and deep-fried, these bite-sized threats to the stability of one’s cholesterol can be found at many of the big chain fast food restaurants.

Back in Montréal, the city’s love affair with these squeaky oddities has extended to the corner store, where customers can buy them over the counter to be enjoyed as an immediate snack – a cheesy solution to all of life’s problems.

Oh, and as for the other delicacy that Miss Muffet was consuming that fateful day? That’s another story altogether!

James O’Sullivan