Food Review: Harvard Hillel

BY LIBIN ZHANG

hillel food.jpg

This review was originally intended to have been written many weeks ago, but your correspondent has been greatly depressed after receiving an overall mark of ‘Needs Improvement’ on his memo: the grave depression was only alleviated after reading some of Harriet Miers’s memos. A few weeks ago, Harvard Hillel decided to serve a pre-Yom Kippur meal, so that observant Jews could eat before sundown. Your correspondent joined a minyan of the section’s fellow Jewish Law Student Association members after class to schlepp down to the Hillel in Rosovsky Hall, at 52 Mount Auburn Street.

Hillel was packed. Oy gevalt! Your correspondent’s yarmulke appeared positively déclassé next to the Mendelssohn and other name brand kippah. The mishmash menu of chow mein, salmon with aioli, and fried chicken, plus cream of chicken and mushroom, and an extensive salad bar, would impress the most jaded multi-culturalist. The soda fountain has a variety of drinks, which besides the Coke/Pepsi staples, includes Fanta ginger ale, Fanta orange, and Nestle Ice Tea, but it would have been even better had the machine also dispensed Manischewitz.

(A historical sidenote: Few people know that Fanta was invented in Germany around 1940. It seemed that Coca Cola Germany had communication problems with Coca Cola HQ in Atlanta, and Germany overall had difficulties importing, so the German operation concocted a new drink, named after the German word Fantasie, using whatever was available, such as apple fiber from cider presses.)

The food is very decent; there is a certain quality about kosher meat that is enhanced by rabbinic supervision. The chow mein is comparable to that served at kosher Chinese restaurants. Of course, the most important consideration in a buffet is quantity, not quality. On the third helping, all of the food supplies remained plentiful despite the room still being packed with hungry Jews.

Amidst the boisterous atmosphere, your correspondent was very eager to find out what Jewish people talk about when among each other. Unfortunately, the stereotypes did not match reality, and the conversation was on much more mundane matters than agonizing self-doubt or ways to continue dominance of financial sectors.

— I need to buy new sets of pots and pans, to keep my meat and milk apart.

— I believe in a strict constructionist interpretation of the Torah. I never eat young goats boiled in their mothers’ milk, but a cheeseburger is OK.

— I’m not that strict really. I don’t buy kosher, but I don’t mix milk and meat. I call it kosher style.

— I’ve heard of that term before.

— But don’t you think the laws are a little outdated now? We have modern foods and hygiene practices.

— WWRBD [what would RamBam do]?

— and Maimonides …

— RamBam might write that Diet Coke is acceptable, but on the other hand, Maimonides would prefer Pepsi…

–Wait, aren’t RamBam and Maimonides the same person?

— Well, it’s like that saying: “two Jews, three opinions.”

— So what kind of kosher is it when it’s like kosher style, but I do mix milk and meat, and I do eat pork?

The service leaves something to be desired. There are no waitresses, so one has to refill drinks manually. When the meal is over, your correspondent had to personally dump the excess food and stack the plates in a manner reminiscent of his middle school days. Small spaces between tables lead to cumbersome navigation. Overall, perhaps not the best place to bring a date, except maybe a cheap shiksa date.

Harvard Hillel is also an exciting place for Jewish parties, not all of which involve guys dancing around in circles. Your correspondent went to a sukkot party in the fancy sukkah [Jewish box], where he received an impressive dose of Jewish music, Talmudic teachings, and falafels.

Unfortunately, the sheyne meydel were not too impressed by your correspondent’s schickered discourse: “You see, Zhang is actually a shortened form of the name Zhangowitz, from Lithuania. When my ancestors arrived at Ellis Island many years ago, they changed their name due to the rampant anti-Semitism at the time….”

The Harvard Hillel is recommended to all Jews and goyim. Besides the various holiday events, the place offers Cheap Eat Wednesday nights for graduate students, where the all-you-can-eat kosher meals are just $5. Ess! And stay tuned for the next installment’s in-depth comparison of the tasty wafers served during Saturday evening mass and Sunday morning mass.

Libin Zhang is the Clarence Thomas of his section’s yehudim. He is a Torah (Written Law) strict constructionist, of humble origins.

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