The confusion stems from the very fact that the Russian president’s name is translated as “Poutine” in France.
A three-location chain of poutine restaurants has become a source of controversy in France, not due to their still-glorious combination of french-fried potatoes , cheese curds, and gravy, but due to the name of the dish itself. Maison de la Poutine (“The House of Poutine”) posted on its social media accounts that it had been receiving “calls of insults,” and therefore the source of the callers’ anger seems to be confusion about what “poutine” means: in France, the name of Russian president Putin is translated as “Poutine.”
In a letter it shared online, Maison de la Poutine explained that its signature dish had nothing to try to to with… that guy. “Our dish was born in Quebec within the 1950s,” the restaurant wrote. “And the stories to inform its origin are numerous. But one thing is certain: poutine was created by passionate cooks who wanted to bring joy and luxury to their customers.”
“The House of Poutine has worked since its first day to perpetuate these values and today brings its most sincere support to the Ukrainian people that are courageously fighting for his or her freedom against the tyrannical Russian regime,” the statement reads.
An employee at the Maison de la Poutine in Toulouse told France Bleu that they are receiving “three or four calls each day […] from people that say that it’s a shame to figure for the Russian state, to possess subsidies from Mr. Putin.” She added that some people just “shout insults” as they walk by, and a few staffers are concerned that those behaviors could escalate to vandalism or violence.
The threats are even more frequent at the chain’s two Paris locations, consistent with its co-founder, Guillaume Natas. “We have up to five or 6 calls per hour,” he told Le Parisien, adding that he has not filed a politician complaint because [he thinks] “the police produce other things to try to to .”
Despite the threats and criticism that his restaurants have received, Natas clarifies that it’s still not even on the brink of what the Ukrainian people have had to endure. “These are just malicious calls,” he said. “In Ukraine, there are people that are being bombed.”
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Elsewhere, the Frite So! restaurant in Lyon announced that it’s changing the once-silly name of its best-known poutine dish, which was previously called Vladimir. “Ciao Vladimir! After 32 years, the pun chosen for our flagship poutine is not any longer very funny,” the restaurant wrote on Instagram. “We replace its name with ‘The Mother of Poutines.'”
“We are obviously against what’s happening in Ukraine. We are afraid that folks will associate our restaurant with Putin ,” manager Morgiane Benaziza told Le Progres. “We didn’t receive a threat, unlike other restaurants.”
And Le Roy Jucep, the Ottawa, Canada restaurant that claims to possess invented poutine, has temporarily re-branded the dish as simply “fries cheese gravy.”