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Caught in the grip of a flood problem that has vexed mankind since pre-historic times, Mr. Westcott and his much-lampooned kitchen fell victim last week to the sinister power that is sour milk. Science, with all its starry array of meat-choppers, lemon-peelers, and assembly lines for manufacturing potatoes an gratin, had no way to tell of the fallibility of the bovine world till the crescendo of sensitive student's protest reached a revolutionary shout. A system so mechanically perfect, yet so hard and insensitive to the demands of the taste buds, has lived too long with the muse of science, and needs a bit of rejuvenation along more humane lines. Harvard's great lack today is an official taster.
No one, least of all the dining hall officials should look wide eyed or askance at this proposal, or feel the stabbings of false conscience. Science, the preachers tell us, can claim too much. A reasonable person cannot expect the food mentors to send Whitings a psychologist to tell when the cows feel contented, or when the outlook for the future sours up. Nobody knows what part of the cud is Cream. But an official taster, specifically selected for a sensitive palate and delicate taste, would not only provide an important mechanical function, that of keeping bad milk off the tables, but would add to the kitchen that human element which is so essential a part of any large food purveying establishment. It is just this touch of individuality that gives world famous restaurants their reputations. Oscar of the Waldorf is no mere automaton, but an artist who knows the difference between curds and whey.
The office of taster is venerable in history and cannot be despised by the strutting young scientificos of the present day and age. In ancient states a taster was more valued than a chief-of-staff. Tacitus, indeed, tells of empire-shaking deeds when the taster succumbed to the lure of Tammany tactics, and Montaigne accounts it the greatest of compliments that Henry IV of France dispensed with his taster when visiting at the essayist's chateau. But Montaigne was a humanist, and had not reduced his kitchen to a system of boilers, pulleys, chafing dishes and steam baths.
Establishing an official taster would be particularly appropriate to the Tercentenary year. From the days of Mistress Eaton, when scandals of hasty-pudding and beer rocked Harvard to her foundations, to the clanking of the guillotine in the Lowell House courtyard last spring, it has been axiomatic that this college battles as well as travels on its stomach. The mechanical men of Mr. Westcott's organization lack the human touch, and the call for an endowed chair in food tasting grows ever louder. Such a bequest would be a noble contribution for Harvard's Anniversary year.
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