Chez Adams and the Great Dining Hall Mystery

The parslied carrot spears glistened appetizingly before my eyes. I was hard-put deciding between the baked bluefish almondine or roast leg of lamb as entree. Finally, to top it all off was a succulent slice of blueberry pie a la carte. The only thing lacking was a tart ten-year-old bottle of Chateauneuf-des-Papes.

An evening at the Ritz, you ask? Or a post-exam interlude at Lockeober's?

Wrong. Dinner at Adams House.

Now, ostensibly Harvard Food Services provides standardized fare across the University. On a given evening, you should be able to eat the same meal at Currier House as at Adams or Kirkland or Mather.

Ostensibly. The Food Services officials will tell you this is not so; students, however, have a different story. They notice differences in both the quality and type of food offered in the various dining halls.


"Eating in Adams House is like going out to dinner," said one disgruntled Winthrop House resident.

David Covall '79, of Kirkland House, remarked that "At least here in K-House the food has the tendency of being warm sometimes."

Yet another student, a resident of Lowell House who asked to remain anonymous, said, "Our courtyard is beautiful, but the food-- well, that's another story."

Why these disparities? Frank J. Weissbecker, director of Food Services said he "didn't have an awareness that there was so much difference."

In theory, Weissbecker said, the food in the different dining halls should be the same. Each House spends the same amount of money for each student--about $1.00 per person per meal, on average. Each House has the same purchasing techniques in buying food, and all adhere to the standardized menu prepared by Rachel Raven, Food Services manager and the University dietician. Raven, a home economist who has been in the food business for 27 years, said the University recipe file was started some five years ago and there have been "few additions" to it in recent times.

There are some new items on the menu, however. Meatless alternates to the main course--such as "mock" cheeseburgers and rice and cheese casserole--have been added in the past two years to cater to the tastes of vegetarians. In principle, at every meal there should be one meatless alternate, Raven said.

In addition, the salad bar has been embellished. Where once one saw only several wilting chunks of lettuce and maybe a sliced tomato or two, one now finds a repertoire that has been broadened, at some Houses, to include diced cauliflower, green pepper, anchovies and mushrooms.

Latest on the hit parade of new food items is "tofu." You have undoubtedly seen it and wondered what it was on the salad bar. Tofu bears a striking resemblance to white bouillon cubes; in actuality, said Raven, it is ancient Oriental dish, high in protein, made from soybean curd.

Despite these University-wide additions to the menu, the fact remains that there are differences in both the quality and type of food offered in Harvard Houses. Weissbecker admits that whether a House has its own kitchen or not could influence the quality of food preparation.

"The five River Houses are all affiliated with one large, central kitchen," he said. "Obviously if you're cooking a great volume of food like that, it's harder to control the seasoning and the warmth of the dishes than if you're cooking in a small kitchen like that at Adams House."

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