Dinner To Evoke Culinary History

For Harvard students in the 17th century, roasted lamb in the dining hall was a common fare, thanks to the prevalence of sheep in Cambridge 375 years ago.

But even though the sheep are now gone, the legs of lamb will be back at today’s dinner in celebration of Harvard’s 375th anniversary.

Whether a diner chooses to sip on a bowl of corn chowder or wolf down a leg of lamb with mint jelly, the Bill of Fare for the dinner will remind diners of Harvard’s culinary history.

“Our main guiding principles were to work from the menus from the 17th century through now that were borrowed from the archives, to choose dishes that we don’t normally find on the HUDS rotation and to include as many local and traditional ingredients as possible,” said Anne G. Douglas ’12, a member of a student committee in charge of developing the menu.

Chef Martin T. Breslin, HUDS director for culinary operations, said he received helpful feedback from the committee, which was composed of students involved in various food groups on campus, such as the Harvard College Culinary Society and the Food Literacy Project.

“We all eat in the dining hall, so it was a great collaborative discussion about what students like to eat,” he said.

The celebratory meal will start off with the Grand Sallat, a traditional Elizabethan salad whose recipe dates back to 1600s, as well as corn chowder and beef consommé.

The entrees include roast leg of lamb with mint jelly, chicken pie, and Welsh rarebit, an open-faced toast with a savory sauce of melted cheese and various other ingredients. The sides are buttered savory cabbage, English peas, griddled potatoes, and corn bread.

A root cellar—featuring a variety of root vegetables like turnips, carrots, beets, and parsnips—will take over the deli space in the servery.

Rebecca A. Ruskin ’13, president of the Culinary Society, said the committee spent some time developing a theme for the dinner.

“We wanted to pick things that we thought students would enjoy but would also be special and representative of Harvard’s history,” Ruskin said. “We also wanted to make sure there were things on the menu that would cater to everyone’s tastes.”

In the end, they decided to go for a traditionally themed meal that gives diners’ taste buds a retrospective look at Harvard over the past 375 years. The recipes for these dishes were collected from the archives at various Harvard libraries. Each committee member then chose one dish to research and wrote a paragraph describing it.

These placards will be printed and posted next to each dish on Friday at all upperclassman dining halls and Annenberg.

—Staff writer Jane Seo can be reached at