In Ottawa, the capital city of Canada, you hear both English and French around you. I found it kind of odd when I first moved there, because both languages would whip by as I walked down the street. I knew that I was really comfortable there when I didn’t notice it.
Ottawa, being mostly anglo-Canadian and completely Ontarian, is pretty uptight when it comes to things like liquor laws and licensing. However, Gatineau-Hull is just across the Ottawa River, so in the span of a five-minute drive you’re in another province. La belle province, Quebec. A province where you can buy liquor at the corner store, at later hours, at a younger age (18, rather than 19).
The depanneur, or the dep, is a Quebecois marvel. It’s part corner store, part pharmacy, and part liquor store.
Back to Ottawa. I lived within stumbling distance of Bank Street, where the triple threat of Barrymore’s, the Aloha Room and Babylon beckoned most nights. Let’s just say that I didn’t protest too much, but that my liver did.
My saving grace was the corner store on the corner of Bank and McLaren. My roommates and I took to calling it the dep, and what a dep it was. You could get aspirin, Toblerone and Gatorade. There was a genius little takeout counter where you could get, depending on the night, samosas or spring rolls.
And poutine. This teeny, tiny, Vietnamese-run depanneur had the best poutine in uptight, anglo Ottawa. The fries were crispy, the gravy beefy, the cheese stringy. That poutine, and that depanneur, were my saving grace most nights.