|Dream come true, or night ruining train wreck?|
"Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it"
~ Your annoying roommate who thinks he knows what's best for you ~
Have you ever thought you wanted something so badly that you would change your plans drastically just to get it? Shifted your entire vacation schedule to make sure you see a hallowed church or glorious ancient wonder of the world? Well that's how I felt about trying poutine in Montreal last weekend. While investing one of my many free days in a trip to Montreal, my travel buddy and friend of the blog Shwa "Slow Jam" Losben asked me how I wanted to spend our big day out Quebec's white-washed Gotham. Without doubt or hesitation, I demanded merely that we see Old Montreal and check out the poutine selection. History and snack food, that's what I'm all about.
Poutine, for those who don't know, is a big pile of french fries, smothered in brown gravy and covered with bits of squeaky cheese curd. Needless to say, this was going to require another pass on my no-dairy policy and at least two lactaid to ensure my personal safety. For the whole day Sunday, we asked every local we met where we could score the best poutine in town - general consensus was La Banquise, a short cab ride from where we had spent most of the afternoon day drinking and engaging in enlightened discourse. Predictably, what started with a meaningful conversation about the distinctions between macro- and micro-level morality over a pint of Boreale devolved into a pissing contest about which one of us was smarter over happy hour shots of Jack Daniels. With both the weather and the conversation turning stormy, we hopped a taxi and handed the nice man behind the wheel a piece of paper with La Banquise scribbled on it in Sharpie. As Shwa was quick to point out, I dropped into my broken "not sure if you speak English" English, and I asked driver, "you know this? Can you drive there yes?"
"Yeah I know it, hop on in guys," he shot back in perfect diction.
The meter ticked up at what appeared to be an alarming pace, and a bit of panic helped clear the clouds in my head left behind by our impromptu bar crawl. We've been driving an awfully long time, I thought to myself. This poutine better be friggin' awesome. After a rainy exit from the overpriced cab, we got seated pretty quickly at the super tacky and super busy La Banquise, and my compatriot and I settled quickly on splitting a large original style poutine and a couple of brewskies. My fork shaking with anticipation, I dove in head first as soon as my prize arrived on the table, unapologetically shoving three full spoonfuls into my face before coming up for air. I leaned back. I savored.
I hated it. How this was possible I knew not. Apparently I had incorrectly assumed that because each element of this delightful mess was in and of itself delicious, the mixed whole would be triply amazing. To be entirely fair to the dish, perhaps it suffered from a bit of "anticipation failure" as much as it was itself a disappointment. Once it was built up in my mind as the greatest thing ever, the very purpose of my visit to a foreign country, it's hard to really live up to that hype. At that point, my poutine needed to be extraordinary simply to meet my most basic of expectations. Such is the danger of building up your travel expectations without really knowing what you're getting into - for all the people that see Angkor Watt and oooh and aaah with joy, there are assuredly just as many vacationers that meh and sigh.
Granted, being saddened by the site of a hallowed 800 year old Khmer temple mountain is a slightly bigger let down than receiving middling poutine in the frozen north, but it still sucks to get exactly what you want only to discover it sucks.