Those Marvelous Church Suppers: Celebrating a Canadian Heritage


184 pages
Contains Illustrations
ISBN 0-919599-27-3





Edited by Elaine Towgood and Anne Nightingale
Reviewed by Janet Arnett

Janet Arnett is the former campus manager of adult education at Ontario’s Georgian College. She is the author of Antiques and Collectibles: Starting Small, The Grange at Knock, and 673 Ways to Save Money.



For most Canadians, the church supper is, or was, an institution, a tradition, a ritual. The introduction to this book says the church supper has “social significance and theological importance.” Yet I doubt if anyone really enjoys church suppers. Women resent the work involved. Men resent the pressure to attend. Everyone resents the discomfort. A folding chair in a cramped church basement, mismatched, chipped china, and a decor of Sunday School art is no one’s prescription for elegant dining. Served along with the artificial cordiality and strained joviality is, inevitably, over-rich, unimaginative food. Food quality, at least, is irrelevant, because church suppers are not about food. They’re about fund-raising.

This cookbook will remind you of the atmosphere as well as the food, for it’s not only a recipe collection, it is a blatantly commercial fund-raiser. It was produced, not because of any urge to share prized recipes, but in order to give church groups something to sell. And it’s slick enough that you can be certain it’ll appear at thousands of church suppers and bazaars over the next few years.

Mixed with the (approximately) 155 recipes is a generous scoop of prayers, quips, quotes, Bible verses, anecdotes, toasts, and snap shots of people eating or gossiping. The publisher’s press release calls this “soft-core evangelism.” Whatever it is, the stuff dwarfs the recipe collection, which has little claim to distinction.

The recipes include both imperial and metric measurements. The groupings are traditional: appetizers, beverages, soups, salads, main dishes, desserts. Undoubtedly the recipes yield lots of tempting dishes of the scalloped potatoes and apple pie variety, but this is hardly a reason to rush into print. There’s nothing included that isn’t readily available from dozens of other cookbooks.

To make this dull selection more marketable, a few celebrities were asked to contribute. Are you prepared to believe Brian Mulroney and Margaret Laurence make soup for church suppers?

Some attempt is made to make the book ecumenical by attributing recipes or quotes to people from different denominations (so it can be sold at Roman Catholic as well as Protestant fund raisers). It was to be Canada-wide in scope, but the West definitely got seconds of space while the provinces east of Ontario scarcely made it to the table.

The book is folksy and colorful. A few tries at humor (“To be a member of the church, you have to like casseroles”) and the format of recipes, wrapped in short quips and quotes, makes it good browsing material.


“Those Marvelous Church Suppers: Celebrating a Canadian Heritage,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 13, 2024,