About Jamaican Patty Day
Jamaican patties arrived in Toronto with immigrants in the 1960s and soon became a firm favorite in the city. They are flaky pastry pies filled with spicy beef . This put them at odds with patties, the name applied to hamburgers and, according to the Meat Inspection Act, a 'patty' could only contain meat and seasonings - and no flour.
The 'Patty Wars' began in mid-February of 1985, when a front-page headline in the Toronto Star asked, “When is a patty not a patty?” The question arose because food inspectors had ordered at least eight Jamaican patty makers to change the name of their product, threatening to impose fines if the change wasn't made.
In less than a week, the issue escalated into threats of lawsuits. Local papers declared it a clear overreach of the government, and Jamaican media reported that Canada had banned the beloved patty. But before patties got their day in court, there was a meeting of federal officials, the Jamaican consul-general, and a local lawyer and patty enthusiast representing the vendors. The group reached a compromise: the shops could continue to use the name “patty” or “beef patty,” as long as they specified them as “Jamaican.”
On February 23rd 1985, Kensington Market, the neighborhood where many of the patty shops were located, threw a party to celebrate the victory.
In 2011, Jamie Bradburn, who wrote a Torontoist column called the Historicist, revisited the incident and a year later, Royson James, a contributing columnist to the Toronto Star, issued an unofficial proclamation of February 23 as Jamaican Patty Day.
The city slowly adopted it as tradition. The local branch of the Jamaican Tourism Board sponsored parties with free patties in honor of the anniversary, turning what once seemed an attempt to push Jamaican culture out of the city into a reason to celebrate it.
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