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IN an editorial in a Magenta a few weeks after the formation of the plan of the present Dining Association, an attempt was made to give a reason why so few students - at that time only a hundred - had applied for seats in the Hall. This was attributed to a doubt on the part of students as to whether four dollars a week was a price that would insure good fare, and the suggestion was made that extra dishes should be supplied to those who were willing to pay for them. Four dollars was fixed as the minimum, with the idea that for a little more than that a student could get good, plain food, simply but well cooked, which would be all that could be expected of an arrangement to allow us to economize without danger to our health. In point of fact, I believe the price has averaged perhaps thirty or fifty cents above the minimum, yet even now I think it is an open question whether the grade of food is high enough for men who are leading a sedentary life. I do not intend to trespass on the columns of the Crimson with any detailed complaints, for an opportunity is now given to complain immediately to the Directors; but I want to bring before the Corporation, which reserves the power to interfere in regard to the health of the students, as well as before the students themselves, the question whether our food is sufficiently nourishing.
It is, I believe, a well-established fact that coarse food, such as baked beans or inferior joints of meat, which is easily digested by a man who works hard in the open air, will not nourish the more delicate organs of a man who is chiefly occupied in brain-work, and that the latter needs a higher style of living. Perhaps I can make my objections clearer by analyzing the effect which Memorial Hall fare has on me. I do not think that the amount of studying which I do is too much; I am always regular in my exercise, and a portion of every day is spent in some kind of relaxation; I take-every precaution to insure health, and yet I find that I have to force myself to eat as a matter of duty, and my life is wretched because of the unpleasant taste that lingers in my mouth after a day of Memorial fare. I am convinced that my trouble is not subjective, that I do not find eating a trouble because I am not well, because I find no such difficulty when I am driven to the Holly Tree for a steak to support life. Every one knows what a vast difference there is between the taste of beef at home and at Memorial, and though it would be unreasonable to expect all the comforts of home, we ought at least to have the advantages of a first-class restaurant.
I infer that there must be many others who have nearly the same experience as I have had; for I am told by a Director that a great many complaints have been made; but, as he justly said, it is impossible to improve the coffee, for instance, without either increasing the price of board or making a reduction in something else. Last year the Nation had some articles on American manners and customs at table, in which it was pointed out that our meals should be plain and simple, well cooked, and served in such a way that our dinner should be a time of enjoyment, and not a vexatious delay, in our fierce rush through life, to shovel in enough food to keep the machine going for a day. The writer said that Harvard was trying to refine her sons by obliging them to have three separate courses at dinner, and, though that particular reform may have been unnecessary, there is certainly plenty of room for further improvements. The price is too low to allow our meals to be made appetizing, and much of our food is therefore of a cheap kind; the meats are from inferior cuts, or are not well carved; we do not have anything warm at lunch; the tablecloths and napkins are coarse or small, and I do not dare to notice how seldom they are washed; in short, as I have said, while all credit is due to the managers for making our money go as far as it does, they have not enough money to supply us with anything better than a third-rate hotel table.
There are two remedies for this state of things, if it is found that I have represented the case rightly: either to raise the price of board fifty cents or perhaps a dollar a week, or to allow any table to order extra dishes. If the first method were adopted, the expense to each member would not be much, - $20 or $40 a year, - while the Steward would have, I suppose, from about $200 to $500 a week more to spend. If the number of those who could not afford this advance is large, the other plan would be best, though more expensive to those who ordered extras. It is said that it would not do to make so marked a distinction between the richer and the poorer students; but does any one know of any bad result of the distinction that already exists between men who go to club tables and those who economize at Memorial?
I think that the feeling is growing stronger that, though our Directors do all that we could expect of them, half a dozen inexperienced young men are not able to manage what is really a large hotel, and that it would be far better for all concerned if the College would take the affair into its own hands. The Corporation and Overseers used last year to dine in state on the platform, and were well satisfied with their repasts; at least we never heard of any result of their visits: but I would ask them to remember that, very naturally, they may have been better served than we, or that, while they went home to a comfortable dinner in the evening, we had to come to a tea-table as meagre as our lunch-table is now, and especially that we are at that period of our lives at which we are developing most rapidly in body and mind, and that it is therefore especially important that our food should be suitable.
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