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Tortes and Torts: Poutine with Dylan Robertson

IMG_5613Robynne Thompson (1L)

Tortes and Torts. A (hopefully) monthly column devoted to all things food and the conversations that happen over food. Think Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, but less funny. Or Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, but less edgy and cool.

Thinking back to my first day of law school, before I knew what the framers of the Constitution were intending (just kidding, I still don’t), I heard whispers about the mysterious “Poutine Guy.” And I wondered, who is he? Why poutine? Does he really exist? I had to find out.

As fate would have it, I happened to meet the Poutine Guy at the first Canons meeting of the year. Turns out, he’s much more than just the Poutine Guy. Dylan Robertson, purveyor of the Instagram @dylan_eats_poutine, is also the News Editor of Canons, Law Show Social Conveyor, Mentor in the Mentorship Program, and competitor in the Hockey Arbitration Moot.

Dylan and I met at Dewey’s to talk all things poutine and law. U of A students are likely familiar but if you didn’t previously attend U of A (or, if you’re like me and you went to U of A and didn’t get out much), Dewey’s is a pub/coffee house situated in the heart of campus in the North Power Plant.

I ordered the small poutine ($7.75) and Dylan tried the sweet potato version ($12.75). Served in the classic fry basket lined with gingham paper, the regular poutine is a masterpiece of colour, forming a kaleidoscope of light brown, dark brown, and beige. To the chagrin of poutine purists, Dewey’s forgoes the traditional cheese curds in favour of shredded cheese. Despite the unauthentic rendition, the shoestring fries maintain crispiness under the salty and slightly sweet gravy. Charles Boyle would give the mouthfeel a 7.5/10.

I admit that I’m not a huge fan of poutine, but after speaking with Dylan, I have renewed appreciation. An Instagrammer of the people, Dylan’s poutine preferences suggest a democratizing message: traditional or not, it just has to taste good. For Dylan, the cheese curd-sporting traditional Quebecois poutines are the best but shredded cheese can be nearly as delicious. Dylan informs me that poutine translates literally to ‘mess’ and says, “at the end of the day, it’s supposed to be slop.” The Dylan test of the messy-but-good poutine: how does everything mix together?

The idea for Dylan’s Instagram came to him back in 2013. While at a restaurant, Dylan attempted to dig into his food when his friends stopped him, so they could Instagram it. He created his own Instagram as way of challenging the food discourses perpetuated by Insta-influencers, asking, “what is the ugliest and most visually unappealing food I can take pictures of?” The answer, naturally, was poutine. Three years later, the idea manifested and blossomed into the hilarious rant-filled Instagram we know today.

It’s this central tenet of Dylan’s Intsa, capturing the power and hilarity in the ugly, that takes @dylan_eats_poutine beyond a simple appreciation of the humble poutine. Dylan credits the rants that accompany the poutine for his account’s success, “it wasn’t until I started ranting about law school, and my life, until people started saying this is great.” The rants are hilarious, and importantly for fellow law students, empathizing. Law school is a challenge and there is comfort in the shared (sometimes ugly) experience, especially when mediated by poutine.

Dylan’s advice for getting through law school: “Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine. Because my Instagram is really dumb, it’s supposed to dumb and so far, it’s been a really positive influence on my time in law school. Don’t be afraid to be unique. [Law school is] meant to test you and you just have to take time out of your day to come up for air whether that’s playing sports or doing the exact opposite and eating unhealthy food for likes on the Internet.”

Dylan’s Instagram has also reached beyond the confines of law school. He’s reluctant to admit he’s #trending but even he can’t deny the positive feedback his pictures and rants have garnered. He’s become the Poutine Guy. Poutine has even come up multiple times in law interviews and recruiting events. If you aren’t already following @dylan_eats_poutine, check it out; it’s hilarious and refreshingly honest about the law school experience.

As far as Dewey’s poutine stacks up, embracing the messy-but-good approach, it’s a tasty poutine. With two sizes (both are large portions) and low prices, it’s a great place to go after a (challenging) school day or late-night study session. Although the sweet potato poutine adds a pop of orange to the sea of brown, the sweet potato fries are at odds with already-sweet gravy. So, unless you really love sweet potato fries, stick to the regular poutine.

For a traditional poutine, Dylan also recommends La Poutine and Cafe Bicyclette. Smokes (in the CAB basement underneath the stairs) serves a messy-but-good version.