An R.C. Archdiocese Jubilee Dinner

The Archives of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto (“ARCAT”) surely contain one of the most specialized menu collections anywhere.

A few years ago a half-dozen menus were reproduced, meals for celebrations or other special events in Diocese history.

Below is one such item, from 1892.



This celebration was a notable occasion, the double-Jubilee of the founding of the Toronto Archdiocese.

This likely explained the fairly elaborate menu offerings. The Diocese went even further by including a wine list. No other menu I saw in the ARCAT website offered alcohol.

I cannot decide if the spatial treatment accorded the sherry, Champagne, and claret  meant each wine should pair with the dishes appearing adjacent, or not. If yes, the claret was meant for the fruit course, say.

That seems incorrect, yet in British dining at the time dry red wine could be drunk at the end of the meal. See the 1890s edition of Table Talk, where claret is advised to accompany cakes.

Possibly, therefore, the clerics drank sherry with each dish after the soup until the game, and from then, Champagne, until the fruit was met with claret.

1892 might be considered late for such treatment since the “rule” of red wine with meat was fairly common by then. But the meal was in Canada, distant from gastronomic centres of authority, all in Europe.

Given too the inherently conservative nature of religious organizations, the Diocese may have continued to observe older dining practices.

In contrast, the typographical design of the menu is rather modern, especially on the right side for the dishes listed. The layout would not be amiss for the menu of a modern upmarket restaurant.

This clerical dinner was held at the Palace on Church Street, Toronto. Not a hotel, it was the rectory for the Archbishop and Bishops of Toronto, and a fine example of Victorian Gothic. Indeed the building still stands, see below.

The Toronto website Taylor on History, source of the image below, has a good overview of its history and design.



The Palace was built to serve nearby St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica. The latter’s website notes:

St. Michael’s Cathedral endures as the principal church of the largest English-speaking diocese in Canada. The Bishop’s Palace remains in use as the Cathedral Rectory and is recognized as the oldest building in the City of Toronto still in use for its original purpose.

Probably the dinner was prepared in the Palace’s own kitchen, and wines brought from a cellar below.

The food might be termed prosperous middle class. It is not excessively ornamented or sauced, the sweetbreads apart perhaps. Familiar yet quality choices were offered: joints, fowl with minimal dressing, game, and one fish.

The inevitable turtle soup of late Victoriana appeared. The desserts do look nice, considered as a unit with the entremets and ices.

The luxury was more in the range of things to eat and drink, vs. individual items.

I love the Violet and Vanilla Ice Cream! Apart from the pleasing alliteration the combination sounds enticing, and once again contemporary. The ginger and glazed fruits, with much else on the menu, does however evoke a period atmosphere.

Violet is the colour of some vestments, isn’t it? And of the wine used in sacraments.

Note re images: the images above were sourced from the websites identified and linked in the text. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to their lawful owner. Images are used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed.



2 thoughts on “An R.C. Archdiocese Jubilee Dinner”

  1. Yes, Gary, violet (or what I called purple) is one of the colours of Roman Catholic priest outer vestments (known as chasubles), familiar to me in my youth as an altar boy. It symbolises Penance and Preparation and is worn during Lent and Advent.

    Other colours include green (used for most of the year), white (or gold), red and rose which also have symbolic meanings, and are worn at Mass for specific feast days or periods. Introduced by Pope Innocent III (1198-1216).

    Ah yes, the perks of being an altar boy – we also wore vestments of sorts (yuck!) but the good bit was sneaking swigs of red altar wine in the vestry (the changing room). The wine was especially made at Mission Wines in NZ’s Hawkes Bay (a winery attached to a seminary) and tasted quite horrible to a 10 yo.

    Without going too deeply into theology, the theory is that, the wine, once blessed at Mass turns into Christ’s blood by the magic process of transubstantiation along with the Host (unleavened bread) which becomes His flesh. Gulp!

    Once I tasted the blessed wine and realised it was the same as the unblessed, I realised the game was well and truly up. I always preferred the Anglican take which is that they are symbols of His flesh and blood.

    One thing is for sure – in Catholic society consumption of alcohol is certainly not frowned upon, indeed it is an integral part in most social events, or at least it was when I was a boy (1970’s). Almost all the priests I encountered in those days drank like fish and usually smoked like chimneys. God knows why.

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