Salmon, Sherry and Tradition

Few undergraduates ever step inside the Faculty Club, the Georgian building tucked between the Barker Center and the Carpenter Center at 20 Quincy Street.

If you are lucky enough to have a professor who will take you to lunch there today, you will dine on Moroccan chicken stew, Beef Wellington with oyster trilogy and fresh fruit crisp.

Less than 20 years ago, your entree choices would have been less haute cuisine. Not only would you have found more traditional meat-and-potatoes fare, but you could have sat down for a big, juicy horsemeat steak. First served during the World War II food rationing programs, horsemeat steak lingered on the Faculty Club menu until the late 1970s. Professors still recall the dish fondly.

"Horsemeat is a rather sweet meat," says Dean K. Whitla, associate director of admissions, who tried the steaks before they were phased out. "I thought it was actually quite nice."

Clearly, change comes slowly to the Harvard Faculty Club, a monument to the Ivory Tower where long-time professors and administrators gather to drink sherry and talk shop in green velvet armchairs. Little seems to have changed since the Club was built in 1929.

Only the rerouting of Harvard Square traffic in the late 1970s--which made it too difficult for the horsemeat delivery truck to reach the Club--finally removed the dish from the menu, says server supervisor Larry C. Sullivan.

Originally open only to dues-paying faculty and staff of the University, declining membership forced the Club to open its doors to all Harvard professors, officers and alumni. Today it is financed entirely by fees charged for services from meals to alumni membership. In addition, the Club rents out rooms for Bar Mitzvahs and wedding receptions when it is not booked for Harvard events.

Portrait of a Bygone Era

The Club moves slowly at 8 a.m. on a Tuesday morning. A few guests drink coffee under 18th-century oil portraits in the ground floor Reading Room. A buffet is spread on a large table in one of the three main dining rooms, where breakfasters sit beside potted palm trees.

There are many empty chairs in the first-floor dining rooms. Most of the 600-700 people who use the Club each day are professors and staff who live elsewhere, and weekday lunches are by far its most important function.

The Club is more then just an eating establishment: breakfasters include overnight visitors who stay in the third-floor bedrooms, and participants in committee meetings held in the second-floor conference rooms. The rooms above the more public first floor are furnished with the same attention to detail.

"All the rooms are differently appointed," says General Manager Heinrich A. Lutjens, who has been at the Club since 1990.

Apart from the television, clock radio, pants presser, wet bar, complimentary bottled water and chocolate truffles, no two bedrooms are the same. Some are hung with botanical prints from the Museum of Natural History, others with watercolor paintings.

The meeting rooms are mostly decorated with engravings, many rented from the Natural History Museum. One room is hung entirely with prints of birds, another with botanical prints, and another with etchings of Algonquin Indians. Black-and-white photographs of sports teams from decades past line the second-floor hallway.

Attention to Detail

Fifty-four staff members, as well as 15work-study students, maintain close attention todetail. Maids polish brass wall fixtures in whiteruffled aprons and black uniforms, servers hoverat the elbows of the diners and groundkeepers cliphedges outside the window.

In one of the third-floor bedrooms, Lutjenshimself pauses to straighten a framed print on thewall. He adjusts it three times before moving on.

"I like working here. Good place to work," saysIrene Tacheida, a housekeeper, as she replaces theapples in a bowl in the third-floor hallway.

The kitchens in the cellar begin bustlingbefore sunrise. Emanuel "Manny" Machado, who hasbeen a cook at the Faculty Club since 1977, dicesonions and peppers for the lunchtime buffet.

Like Tacheida, he says it is a nice place towork, but adds that like anything else, it cannotstay the same forever.

"It's getting a little rough now becauseeverything is changing: management and the menus,"he says. "It's more light food now, better qualityingredients."

Machado, who remembers the days when horsemeatwas prepared in the Club's kitchen, says the menuhas moved away from traditional meat-and-potatoesfare in recent years to accommodate diners' tastes.

"First we had American chefs and then we had aFrench one," he says.

Sullivan, who coordinates the functions in thesecond-floor meeting rooms, remembers scores offamous people who entered the Club. Among others,he remembers King Hussain, the Crown Prince ofJordan, and Sean Connery.

The Long Table

Manhattan in the 1920s had the Algonquin RoundTable, where members of the literati gathered toswap witty epigrams and drink martinis at theAlgonquin Hotel.

Harvard has the Long Table.

Originally intended to provide seating andcompanionship for individuals who arrive withoutguests, the longtable in the first-floor diningroom has been an institution since the FacultyClub's founding.

The first chapter in Galbraith's 1990novel, A Tenured Professor, is entitled "TheLong Table."

"This, by common consent, is the majorcommunications center of the University," hewrites.

Long Table regulars--who include economistGalbraith, Center for International AffairsAssociate Benjamin H. Brown and Dean of StudentsArchie C. Epps III--gather for lunch and scholarlyconversation.

"[The conversation] ranges from history toarchaeology to poetry to the best novels in theworld," says Whitla, another Long Table regular.

Kenan Professor of Government Harvey C.Mansfield '53, who sometimes dines at the LongTable, says in addition to "idle chit-chat,"professors banter about more substantive issuessuch as tenure decisions.

Staff of the Faculty Club speak fondly of theLong Table regulars.

"I've known some customers for 20 years. I knowa few of them very well," Machado says. "I knowDean Epps well, and I used to know [former] Dean[of the College] Henry Rosovsky."

Comfort Over Grandeur

Between 600 and 700 patrons eat lunch at theFaculty Club daily, but younger Faculty memberssay they rarely have personal luncheons there.

"There was a department head dinner, and I hadlunch in the basement once," says Tom C. Braden,assistant professor of math. "I don't feel likepaying the money upstairs, and downstairs doesn'treally impress me."

Patrons who wish to have a more laid-back lunchmay choose to eat in the basement Theatre Room,where typical fare includes roast beef sandwichesand pizza priced between $5 and $7.

By contrast, the prix fixe menu in the statelyupstairs dining room, which includes beeftenderloin and tiramisu, is about double theprice.

Ann Pellegrini, assistant professor of English,says she uses the Club mostly for businessfunctions, but adds, "I tend to do my socializingelsewhere.LAP OF LUXURY: Each of the FacultyClub's rooms is lavishly appointed.