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I think I have set a new record. I have made it to three New York Deli Days--so far. After I dine at an undisclosed Deli Day location today, I am going to re-invoke the Steelers' Super Bowl victory slogan, "One for the Thumb."
My roommates are amazed. I have taken on cult status among my friends and I have the feeling that the National Enquirer is going to come knocking on my door to ask where I get my psychic energy.
Call it luck. Call it ESP. Call it residual effects from Quadlines. I have a radar for corned beef.
I didn't know that Deli Day existed until I happened upon it in Lowell House a few weeks ago. But, I could hardly complain about missing out on Pioneer Sandwiches and potato coins when Harvard Dining Services was waving lox and cream cheese under my nose.
A few weeks later, I, being a busy Quadling, was stuck on the River for lunch. I went into Adams House hoping that they would have interhouse, and to my surprise, all of the dining hall workers were wearing straw hats and checked aprons. I knew that something strange was going on. But as I munched on a piece of non-processed cheesecake, I felt no desire to challenge the supernatural forces that had guided me to Adams House.
And then yesterday, I overslept and missed all of my classes. I stumbled into the dining hall and saw checkered tablecloths on all of the tables. When my friends saw me, they started to laugh. I had been bragging to them for weeks about Deli Day, and it had finally come to Cabot House.
I know we whine incessantly about dining hall food--about broccoli cheese pasta that sticks to your plate, about the concept of fish pizziola, about hamburgers that we cooked in the Kennedy era, about rice pilaf that crunches, about Skincredibles being a main dish.
The food is, with all due consideration, pretty bad--albeit allegedly nutritious.
So what happens to make students in the know suddenly flock to the house hosting Deli Day?
What inspires students to call their friends to tell them to get over to their house as soon as possible before all the potato salad is gone?
How can some students honestly exclaim while leaving their dining halls, "You know, this day was pretty bad until I went to lunch."?
Why all the fuss over the normally-much-maligned Harvard Dining Services?
In a few words: corned beef, brisket, pastrami, chopped liver, lox, real bagels, potato pancakes (especially timely on Chanukah), edible cheese cake and even cans of Dr. Brown's soda.
The food might not be up to the standards of deli Maven and professor of law Alan Dershowitz, but it is good enough for me. And I have worked in delis for the past couple of summers.
The main offerings are credible. The corned beef, although a slightly different color than the fare I serve, is authentic enough. The pastrami is far superior to the greasy junk HDS likes to serve on a "bulkie roll."
Adams House's chopped liver was almost as good as my mother's.
The potato latkes were, like most of the stuff we study here at Harvard, good in theory. Of course, it takes a lot to get a theory to work in practice. Still, they were a nice touch.
The fact that most of the food on Deli Day is prefaced by the term "real" says a lot about what we normally eat. "Real" bagels remain round and slightly misshapen because they aren't kept in plastic bags and mass-processed at the Lender's factory. "Real" rye bread is sort of oblong, not square. "Real" cheesecake is a shade of yellow between lemon squares and the Hollandaise they try to serve with brocolli spears.
"Real" food tastes good, too.
HARVARD Dining Services should feel good that they have finally created a theme meal that works.
They should also feel appreciated. In these work-filled weeks before vacation, we need all the extra happiness we can get.
For those who have missed the Deli Days so far, don't worry. One should be coming eventually to a dining hall near you.
If you can't wait for fate to guide you to right place at the right time, just follow me to lunch. I have a "feeling" (all right, this time I have inside information) that there are going to be Deli Days this afternoon.
You can bet I'll be there. My record has been pretty good so far.
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