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Special Dinner Highlights Annenberg Hall Reopening

By Chana R. Schoenberger

A string quartet and arrangements of peach and red roses formally welcomed the Class of 1999 to Annenberg Hall last night, during a special dinner to celebrate the reopening of the College's original dining hall.

Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68 was on hand to greet students as they entered the remodeled hall, which has been serving meals to first-years since Jan. 28. Each first-year received a commemorative program from Dean of Freshmen Elizabeth Studley Nathans.

To highlight the connection with Memorial Hall's nineteenth century beginnings, the event's organizers wanted to replicate a dining hall menu from the period.

But after finding a menu from the early days of Memorial Hall in the Harvard Archives, "we decided not to," said Michael P. Berry, director of Harvard Dining Services (HDS).

According to the event program, a Memorial Hall dinner in the early 1900s included mock turtle soup, fried codfish and pork scraps, Welsh rarebit, stewed kidneys in wine sauce, canvas back ducks, lamb tongues and canned corn, with mince pie for dessert.

Instead, Berry said, HDS chose to "contemporize classic foods."

Students at Annenberg yesterday dined on prime rib, clam chowder, salmon with pineapple cilantro salsa, asparagus spears and Chinese noodle salad. Dessert included miniature pastries.

Like all meals at Annenberg, the inaugural dinner was served using the scatter system, a method of food distribution that separates the different types of food within the servery, rather than the traditional cafeteria line used in the Freshman Union.

Many first-years blame the scatter system, which is currently being used only in Annenberg, for the long lines frequently encountered in the new dining hall.

But Berry said he is optimistic that the kinks will work themselves out.

"Ultimately, it will work very well," he said. "The difficulty is getting used to it."

If the system works, Berry said, HDS might extend it to other dining halls on campus.

"We're going to be remodeling Adams House the summer after next, and we'll probably go to a scrambled system," he said. The other river houses may go to the scatter system as their dining halls are renovated several years from now, Berry added.

The decision whether to continue Annenberg's controversial no-inter-house dining policy may also depend on the lines, Berry said.

But Nathans, as dean of freshmen, has the final say in determining inter-house policy, just as do all the house masters in their individual dining halls, Berry said.

"We hope that the lines will abate and the Freshman Dean will be able to change the policy, but that's her decision," he said. "I think she's made the right decision until we've got the bugs worked out, however."

Despite the elaborate preparations for the opening banquet, which included special uniforms for the dining hall staff and cloth napkins on the tables, Nathans stressed the informality of the event in an e-mail message yesterday afternoon.

"The opening will, we hope, be a pleasant but relatively low-key affair, celebrating the facility and the first-year students who will be using it, rather than highlighting University officers or officials," she said

If the system works, Berry said, HDS might extend it to other dining halls on campus.

"We're going to be remodeling Adams House the summer after next, and we'll probably go to a scrambled system," he said. The other river houses may go to the scatter system as their dining halls are renovated several years from now, Berry added.

The decision whether to continue Annenberg's controversial no-inter-house dining policy may also depend on the lines, Berry said.

But Nathans, as dean of freshmen, has the final say in determining inter-house policy, just as do all the house masters in their individual dining halls, Berry said.

"We hope that the lines will abate and the Freshman Dean will be able to change the policy, but that's her decision," he said. "I think she's made the right decision until we've got the bugs worked out, however."

Despite the elaborate preparations for the opening banquet, which included special uniforms for the dining hall staff and cloth napkins on the tables, Nathans stressed the informality of the event in an e-mail message yesterday afternoon.

"The opening will, we hope, be a pleasant but relatively low-key affair, celebrating the facility and the first-year students who will be using it, rather than highlighting University officers or officials," she said

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