In the days before HUDS, cuisine was different at Harvard. In 1766, you couldn’t hit up the Square for a late night dinner run. Harvard students were restricted to eating on campus. Felipe’s, had it existed, would have suffered a huge hit to their late-night food business model.
To top this off, Harvard students were forced to act decently at meals, lest they be fined a hefty five shillings by a tutor. Needless to say, the atmosphere was tense. The final straw was having to eat butter that had gone sour in the dining halls. After being forced to consume putrid dairy, the students took matters into their own hands.
The uprising is catalogued in a satirical parody of a book favored by Harvard men of a bygone era. The original was a worldwide bestseller, entertaining but erring on the side of preachiness.
I am, of course, referring to the Bible.
- And it came to pass in the ninth month, on the 23d Day of the Month, the Sons of Harvard murmured and said:
- Behold! bad and unwholesome Butter is served at unto as daily; now let us therefore depute Asa, the Scribe, to go unto our Ruler, and seek Redress.
- There arose Asa, the Scribe, and went unto Belcher, the Ruler, and said, behold our Butter stinketh, and we cannot eat thereof; now give us we pray thee Butter that stinketh not.
- And Belcher the Ruler, said, trouble me not but begone unto thine own palace; but Asa obeyed him not.
- So when Belcher and others of the Rulers departed, the Sons of Harvard clapped their Hands, and kissed and cried, Aha! Aha!
- Then Edward the Chief Ruler and John and another Edward (not the chief) and Stephen and Belcher and Simeon and Thomas, surnamed Horsehead, and Andrew and Joseph consulted together and said:
- Behold, Asa the Scribe hath risen up against us. and the Sons of Harvard have hissed and clapped in Derision of us;
- Now therefore let us punish Asa the Scribe and make him confess before all Harvard; and Belcher the Ruler, surnamed Bowl, alias Beelzebub, said, let him also be placed below his Fellows, and they agreed to that also.
- And all, even all, the Sons of Harvard met and agreed also,
- That if bad and unwholesome Butter should be served out unto them on the morrow, they would depart and leave the Rulers to the Meditation of their own Hearts, with many other things I heard not of.
- So on the Morrow, bad and un wholesome Butter was served out unto them, and they rose up and departed, every one unto his own Place."
“The Book of Harvard” continues on to recount the epic tale of rebellion, tyranny, triumph, pain, and love as the students grapple with the administration in a desperate quest for better butter. Okay, maybe not love, but this writer detected a subtle subplot of romance between Belcher and Horsehead.
It is unclear if the young Sons of Harvard succeeded in their revolt, but Harvard’s profuse history of culinary unrest, which includes equally lurid tales such as the Cabbage Rebellion of 1807, suggests that the administration’s response was lackluster at best. But next time you find yourself in a Harvard dining hall give the butter a taste, and see for yourself. You, too, could join in the rich tradition of rioting in the face of repugnant churned milk.
Unless you live in Canaday. Canaday is riot proof.