FACT: The End of the Beginning. Cheese and Bread at 3:35 on The 6th Floor
So it has come....my last FACT email. Months ago I had plans for a grand exit, some memorable piece of writing that would have you all in tears of laughter and sorrow as I gracefully rode off into the sunset. There would have been call-backs, inside jokes, grand analogies that mostly missed the mark but were redeemed by my inherent likability, and, most of all, cheese puns. Now that the time has actually come to write the thing, however, I find myself simply mailing it in, like the rest of the work that I have done this past summer (don't tell Eliot I said that). A more cynical mind would label my blasé attitude as the graduate school manifestation of the classic `senioritis,' but I like to think there is something more to it.
Somewhere along the way I finally came to terms with the reality that this is no longer my home. My chapter in this book has passed, and, indeed, it was but a small chapter in the weighty annals of UCB astronomy. Two pages getting stuck together would be enough for someone skimming through the many accomplishments of old/new Campbell hall denizens to overlook my time here. Sure, maybe I would get an honorable mention if there were a special section on cheese (which there absolutely should be) describing my contributions to Friday Afternoon Cheese Time (FACT), but even then I would be but one name in the hopefully long line of past, present, and future cheese shepherds. See, I did not bring FACT into this world, nor will I take it out. The legendary Chris White came before me and the wunderkind Kareem El-Badry comes after me. And who knows, maybe one of the new first years will eventually take his place in a natural process of succession that will continue until the end of Berkeley time. That, at least, is my hope.
OK enough with the transparently false humility. I doubt anyone who has known me for longer than a few minutes was buying it anyway. This whole email is about me, like all the FACT emails I've written...it's not narcissism if I use a pseudonym, right? So with that out of the way, I want to wrap up this truly memorable chapter in UCB Astronomy by concluding the thematic arch established last August with "The Beginning of The End." If you recall, in said email I set myself up as equal to Moses while lamenting the prospect of having no Joshua to take my place after my departure. Well as divine Providence would have it, a hope beyond all hope emerged from the shadows in the form of one Kareem El-Badry. I could not be more pleased with my replacement. Not only does he have a love for cheese but he seems just as willing as I to throw cautionary tact to the wind in order to indulge an irreverent sense of humor. And isn't that exactly what the world needs right now? In light of such developments I now see that this last academic year was the end neither for me nor FACT but a new beginning.
How does this all translate into a theme for the cheeses I have for you today? If you are one of the many hardcore FACT email fans in the department you have surely guessed it by know. At precisely 3:35 today, join me in celebrating the end of the beginning as we present to you three cheeses that start with the letter "G," paired with The Bouldering Baker's unparalleled baguettes. If you still don't get it ask your neighbor.
Thus ends the words of Käse Söze.
The Stinky Cheese Man and The Bouldering BakerStinky Cheese Man
FACT: Scooped at 3:35
Monday, August 27, 2012: a date that may haunt me for the rest of my academic career. Technologically speaking, it was a simpler time; smart phones were not yet ubiquitous and most laptops were still the size of large briefcases. Access to information was thus slightly more restricted in that college students often had to physically travel to the library in order to check email or, say, figure out if Kurt Cobain was really singing about mosquitos in "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Seeking to do more of the former (I was more studious as an undergrad), a few weeks into my last Fall semester I found myself entering the doors of DH Hill, the main campus library at NC State located on what we called the ‘brickyard.' It was a typical August day for North Carolina: humid and in the mid 80's. By my calculations this meant that I had approximately 15 minutes indoors before the instant wave of relief provided by the overzealous air conditioner would transition into a soul-piercing chill; one that would ultimately leave me crunched up in the fetal position with my arms inside my t-shirt pining for the jacket I forgot in my dorm. As I walked into the first floor lobby area, I purposefully chose a computer nearby a group of students playing Super Smash Brothers Brawl on one of the big screen TVs*. Why would I do such a thing? Well it is hard to explain, but there has always been something about about the sound of button mashing that I find therapeutic. Often when my family was on vacation and I was sharing a room with my little brother I would have him sit in his bed with the lights turned off playing his Game Boy on mute as the clickety-clacks soothed me to sleep. The Game Boy Advanced SP had particularly nice sounding buttons…similar to the new Macbook Pro keyboards. Ahhhhhh.
Today, however, not even that weird tingly sensation triggered by the sound of the gamers' smashing session could prepare me for what came next. As I logged into my account, the first email that caught my eye was from my research advisor titled simply: "Read This." It was a link to an Arxiv paper. The title was vague, but sounded relevant enough to to be useful for my particular project so I eagerly dove in. “Useful” was an understatement. As I scanned through the article, it became abundantly clear that some guy in Potsdam had been simultaneously working on models of X-ray filaments in supernova remnants with almost the same methodology as the one I had been using. The more I read, the more every section heading, every equation, every figure felt like a punch to the stomach, each one compounding the pain I felt until all I could do was turn my face away and stair blankly at Yoshi throwing eggs at Pikachu. “This isn’t just useful for my project….it is my project."
We often hear of victim-less crimes, but scooping is usually a case of a crime-less victim. Dr. Rettig in Potsdam had no malicious intent; on the contrary, his motives were pure. He had no idea who I was nor had I ever heard of him until this moment. We were from completely different cultures, at different points in our careers, and lived halfway around the globe from each other. Yet we both came to essentially the exact same result regarding a particular feature of giant thermonuclear explosions in outer space. This seemingly remarkable occurrence is a case of one of the most appealing aspects of scientific research turning sour. Our job is to uncover fundamental truths about our universe, truths that exist outside of ourselves and independently of our personalities, talents, or even our very existence. When we have a result, in principle it is directly testable in nature and, if confirmed, it stands rock-solid as something we can proudly call a meaningful contribution to the human race. As great as that sounds, however, it leaves no room for the individuality of the scientist. Anyone could (in fact must) come to the same result if their methodology is sound. Science doesn’t care whether one is a wonderful person who is a delight to interact with or if one is an insufferable jerk who no one can stand to be around for longer than five minutes. It doesn’t care how much time one puts into a project, nor how much one “deserves” a groundbreaking result compared to the next person. Science doesn’t care, it just is.
How should we feel about this? I don’t know, but what I can tell you is that ever since that day in 2012 I have been paranoid that one of my in-progress papers will suddenly appear under someone else's name on the ArXiv. Heck, these days I even worry that The Gouda Shepherd will use one of my FACT ideas before I get a chance. That said, my job is to bring you cheese and not to philosophize. So instead of giving you all the answers to life I will give you three very ‘scoop’-able cheeses of which I am quite fond. To imagine their texture, picture freshly melted cheese except at room temperature. So gooey they seem like they should be a fifth state of matter and, let me tell you, they taste way better than plasma. Perfect for pairing with The Bouldering Baker’s baguettes. Join us at precisely 3:35 on the sixth floor and experience the best kind of scooping firsthand.
Non-Ideal MHCheese and The Bouldering Baker
*Though this might seem a strange thing to see in a library, DH Hill offered a large selection of video games for rent and encouraged us to play them in this open area by the computers….NC State undergraduates lived much less stressful lives than Berkeley undergraduates.
FACT: A Portrait of the Havartist As A Young Man (Post-Modern Cheese) At 3:45 On The 6th Floor
“Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo.” (Joyce 1916, p. 1)
moocow. baasheep. maagoat. Tuckoo had lots of friends being so nicens. But sadly, his father was a fish. Like Ahi tuna or Mahi Mahi. His less piscine mother - OG type farmer woman - raised him till he was grown Tucko. Plop plop plop plop plop plop plop plop. If it rains one more time this month I'm gonna....Creeeeeeaaaaak. Bessie!! Hows it hanging? probably too heavy I imagine, har har. Well I can help you out with that. Don’t get the wrong idea miss, just business. splash squish squish splash squish.....nice time to reminisce. Go Go Power Rangers, you mighty morphin' power rangers! Tucker, it's a beautiful day outside, you better not spend all day sitting in front of that TV. But Moooooom, it's the green ranger episodes! You've seen them all a million times, go outside and play with your friends or I'll put you to work——wait, why did the flute dagger sound like a trumpet?? Whup, all full. Back to reality.
Ope there goes gravity. He takes the fruit of their udders and adds a magical ingredient:
One bacterium, two bacterium, three bacterium, four. GROWWW until something amazing happens. Talk about morphin' time. Dragon Zord! Mastodon! Pterodactyl! Triceratops! Saber-tooth tiger! Tyrannosaurus! Pecorino Toscano! morphenomenal indeed. You never did the Kenosha kid? Try it sometime, you'll enjoy it. Like how you all enjoyed that stinky muenster in the way way back…. Apparently the French eat it with cumin, maybe that helps. Reminds me, I've got to reset Q_min to 1e-6 before running that simulation. Sean? Sean? Are those your clothes in the dryer? Yeah yeah, I'm comin.
What am I trying to say here? Nothing. Because everything is nothing except for something. Plus cheese. Cheese is certainly something. And you are what you eat: existentialism. Jimmy Eat World<—>Jimmy is world. Want to be great? Or at least a coagulated dairy product? dream of champions mind you. Well for today’s edition of Friday Afternoon Cheese Time (FACT) I have some real horrorshow cheese, my droogs, made from the finest moloko out there. Cheese that shuns tradition, convention, rules, and perhaps all sense while making no appy polly loggies for itself. How good is it? Well, on a scale of 1 to 3i it is a 64.5. So come viddy what we have in store for munchy-wunching time and put your zoobies to good use at 3:45 as we welcome the next generation of potential graduate students to our department. I’m modern, you’re modern, ergo, they’re post modern. QED. Or boomshakalaka as Newton would use in his later proofs after playing NBA Jam for the first time. Be there, and Be squared will also have some nice kleb, freshly made for you.
Non-Ideal MHCheese and The Bouldering Baker-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
If post modernism is not your thing, perhaps you would prefer this email refracted through one of these alternative artistic movements:
Realist: We have some cheese and bread. By the time you get a taste of it multiple people will have probably breathed on it and handled it; think of the germs! As far as cheese and bread go, these are on the better side, but they will be neither best you have ever tried nor the worst. If you don't show up you probably won't miss anything too special and will avoid spoiling your appetite for dinner. Come if you don’t have anything better to do.
Romantic: Oh glorious day! We have some cheese for you that will breathe the very essence of spring into your lungs as it invokes feelings of renewal and birth. Cheese that inspires. Cheese that invigorates. Cheese that throws off the weight of tradition so that it can soar with eagle's wings along with your taste buds. Join us in rediscovering our oneness with nature as we ingest it into our stomachs while tranquilly gazing at the sun falling over the bay.
Puritanical: It is written: "For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die." Stay far away from the 6th floor of Campbell, where a group of revelers are indulging in gluttony and foolish talk. Ye have been warned. Resist temptation and you will stand. Instead, please join us in the basement for a time of fasting and solemn assembly. We'll bring the sackcloth and ashes.
Renaissance: To brie or not to brie...you know the rest.
Classical: Sing with me oh muse as I tell of cheese forged by the very gods themselves from the milk of immortal cattle grazing on Mount Olympus. In the hopes of laying hands on this caseous treasure, Achilles raged against against the army of Troy, Aeneas descended into Hades alive, and Icarus nearly flew into the sun. Surely you can climb a few stairs to get a taste.
PS: Vegan? Lactose intolerant? Don't even like cheese? Well frankly I am honored that you still read this far. To show my appreciation I give you the only part of this email that makes any sense: In addition to cheese we will have non-dairy spreads from Cheeseboard to enjoy with the baguettes.
Subject Line: FACT: To Brie or Not To Brie at 3:35
To brie or not to brie, that is the question Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of...
And that's all I got. I tried, but honestly I do not understand iambic pentameter. I can count syllables just fine, mind you, it's the whole ba Dum ba Dum nonsense that I can't wrap my head around. Is, say, "opposing" ba Dum ba or Dum ba Dum? Beats me. I can't be the only one who is confused by this...or is it just me who is Dum Dum? Anyway, you will just have to imagine that the rest of this email is nearly perfectly metered (since a completely perfect meter is a tell-tale sign of a rookie).
For some time now I have been going back and forth on whether or not to brie. The French classic serves as a particularly good introduction to soft-ripened cheeses: no overly offensive odor, no strong metallic taste, mild, smooth, and buttery, while looking oh so nice when sliced open. When all is said and done, it will be hard to write the book on cheese without including the so called "queen of cheeses." In modern times, brie has become the token `fancy' cheese to pull out at dinner parties, colloquia, and receptions. Massive popularity, however, leads to familiarity, which ultimately breeds contempt; just ask my cubicle mates. Most of us when we fly across the country are not sitting there thinking to ourselves "what an impressive feat of human engineering!" Instead, we are complaining about the leg room, wishing that crying babies were relegated to the luggage compartment, or wondering why they decided to offer only episodes 3, 7, and 9 of The West Wing. So it is with brie. The merits of the cheese are taken for granted while we pine for more exotic culinary experiences.
This is the reason that I have been thus far hesitant to offer a brie as one of the selections for Friday Afternoon Cheese Time (FACT). One can't really blame me; it is a natural human tendency. A Metallica headbanger might rank "Creeping Death" ahead of "Enter Sandman" on their all-time playlist. A die hard member of Dub Nation might choose Shaun Livingston as his go-to jersey instead of Steph Curry. Kip Thorne might prefer to expound on the merits of GW170608 while pooh-poohing GW170817. Similarly, when someone asks me what my favorite cheese is, I tend to throw out an obscure Portuguese mountain cheese so that they instantly think I know my stuff. The temptation is strong to justify one's real or imagined expertise and it doesn't take a connoisseur to tell you that Parmesan-Reggiano is tasty.
But indeed, it is tasty, and I would be neglecting my duty as one of the (self-appointed) departmental cheese consultants if I did not acknowledge this reality. So my decision has been made: today is the day when I will finally humble myself and give in to the brie. At precisely 3:35 PM on the 6th floor of Campbell, we will have three cheeses that you most assuredly have heard of and tried before, including the titular brie. Sound too ordinary for a FACT? Just think of it like a Mother's Day for cheese. Every once and a while it is good practice to take stock of all the wonderful things that make life bearable and celebrate them as if they weren't something we get to enjoy every day. Celebrate with us this afternoon!
Power to the brie-ple. (I stole that from the teaple)
PS: That's the last time I try my hand at verse (or is it? #RexitSeminarExperience2019).
Subject Line: FACT: Make America Grate Again at 3:30
My fellow astronomers, are you dissatisfied with the current state of affairs in this country? Does it seem to you like every other day there is a story in the news making us out to be a mockery to the rest of the world? Do you feel slighted when anything directly imported from France or Italy automatically counts as fancy while American products generally get the snub? If so, you are not alone. These recent developments left me deeply troubled, so I went looking for answers from the only reliable source of media that I know: Fox News. As always, they had my back.
In this alarming article, it is reported that not only is America not consuming the most cheese, we don't even crack the top ten. Heck, we're even behind Estonia!….Es-ton-ia!!! I mean, isn’t that some po-dunk country in Africa? Do they even have cows there? Frankly, we Americans should be ashamed of ourselves. The average person in this country is consuming only 35 pounds of cheese per year...that's less than 11 ounces per week! We can't expect to compete mentally or physically with the rest of the world with such a paltry intake. What’s the point of being the most obese nation if it is not due to cheese? What are we stuffing our face with, avocados?
The so-called media wants you to embrace dietary moderation, but those Euro-loving clowns would love to see the US start speaking French or having daily afternoon tea. Well I, Käse Söze, and my running mate Caseous Clay won’t stand for this, and neither should you. As president and vice-president of this once proud nation, we promise to make America grate again. Every school in the country will be required to serve at least four ounces of cheese with lunch. Dairy products will be tax free, and any income spent on them will be tax deductible. All NSF funds will be earmarked for research seeking the cure for lactose intolerance. Vegans will be banned from immigrating and a wall will be built to keep them from sneaking in (Mark, Ellie, and Paul can stay though, they're cool). Afternoon cheese time will no longer be limited to every other Friday, but will be considered a daily fourth meal.
If that sounds like a country that you’d like to live in, then cast your vote for us in the upcoming election….whenever that is. Just write us in on the on the ballot or something. Our first rally is being held today at 3:30 on the 6th floor of Campbell, where we will put our money where our mouth is (and where your mouth is) with three grate American cheeses. They will be accompanied by The Bouldering Baker's All American Freedom Sticks ®: long, thin, and crusty loaves of bread that pair perfectly with cheese. Totally not baguettes. Get that Frenchie stuff out of here.
Non-Ideal MHCheese and The Bouldering Baker support this message
Subject Line: MACT: Hay Ja. German Alpine Cheese at 4:00 on the 6th Floor
Forty days and forty nights up on a mountain and everyone forgets about you. Scarcely am I gone a week and I receive word that you have been lead astray to worship Danish dark matter (or so I gather) by some upstart "Gouda Shepherd." Did no one protest to see the "Caseous Clay" name taken by another? Did no one think that perhaps my extended absence was entirely on your behalf? Are you so desperate for cheese that you are willing to follow anyone who can send a hilarious, multi-paragraph email? Ah you stiff-necked people! How quickly you are to forget all that I have done for you.
But perhaps I am not being quite fair. I left without warning or explanation and you had no reason to suspect my true purposes, so let me explain. At first, the roaring success of "The Beginning of The End" and "Rind Over Matter" to open the semester left me feeling invigorated for another year of providing quality cheese to the masses. However, when I sat down to brainstorm new ideas for future Friday Afternoon Cheese Times (FACTs), l quickly realized that my creative juices were drained. As time went on and inspiration continued to elude me, I decided to do something drastic...or at least drastic for me. I flew to the other side of the globe, becoming a stranger in a strange land (with a strange language and strange laundry machines, though they still have Michael Jackson) in search of the elusive dairy muse. Upon landing, I trekked for days into the remotest regions of the countryside until I came to a small village by the sea. There I found an ancient castle on a hill looming large over the town below, just visible over the clouds. Climbing the highest tower and gazing across the rolling green hills sparsely populated with quaint country houses, I was sure that I had reached my destination. Alas, it was not so, as after an extended stay learning from the sages that inhabit the castle I was no closer to my goal.
Downcast and at the end of my rope, I descended into the town below not knowing what I’d find. Fortunately for me, the townsfolk intuitively understood my need and took me in as their own, showing me their ways. They taught me that true lacteal enlightenment can only come by consuming the milk of cows allowed to roam free in the Alpine fields on a traditional, natural diet consisting of grass in the summer and hay in the winter. A single bite of their “hay milk” cheese was enough to reawaken my inner flame….I was back, baby.
Satisfied with my progress, the locals sent me on my way now well equipped to continue my service to you, but not before giving me a few parting gifts. First, as a token of my acceptance into their community they bestowed upon me a new name: Käse Söze (pronounced keh-zah so-zay; loosely translated from two languages as cheese word...though I'd like to think of it as cheese babbler). Second, they (for a small price) packed my sack full of their highest quality hay milk cheese so that I would not forget all that I had learned after the long journey home. I am happy to report that said cheese has survived the trip and even passed through customs. So please join me for today's M(onday)ACT at precisely 4:00 on the sixth floor where I have for you three German Alpine cheeses alongside some baguettes. We may not be able to breathe fresh air for a few more days but at least we can taste it.
Note: For this post in pictures, see https://imgur.com/a/zyuQCTN
PS: Full disclosure, the cheese has been un-refrigerated for a cumulative ~ 24 hours during transit, though much of that time was in reasonably cold weather. It is vacuum sealed and should be fine. I ate one a few days ago and survived.
PPS: In all seriousness, Kareem did an excellent job as my replacement and did a service to both you and me in hosting two FACTs while I was away. Sometimes I just have a weird way of saying "thank you." He is, in actuality, an officially licensed member of whatever we are calling ourselves these days and has earned the name of "Caseous Clay."
Subject Line: FACT: Rind Over Matter at 3:35 On The Sixth Floor
Circa the late 90's I recall having a casual debate with my two siblings in the parking lot of a Dairy Queen. We sat sat enjoying our ice cream (note that I use the term "ice cream" loosely, as DQ's soft serve does not legally meet the requirements for that classification), lounging in the back of our minivan with the doors open to the warm summer night. With the onerous burden of rote memorization we called "elementary school" still months away, our young little minds were free to pursue more engaging philosophical matters, namely, the relative merits of the various components of the soft serve ice cream cone. I was attempting to uphold the position that the wafer cone was the best part on the basis that the last bite of gooey, half-melted fusion of dairy and cone was the great crescendo of the whole experience. Without it, all one would have to look forward to is that last little bit of room temperature liquid that somehow manages to taste mostly like the cup it sits in and leave one with a general feeling of disappointment. My iron-clad 8 year-old logic was too much for my 5 year-old brother's brain to handle, so he simply sat in awe of my intellectual prowess as he licked away in silence. My sister on the other hand, 6 years old and with no respect for her elders, didn't hesitate to chime in with her ranking: "I like the ice cream the best, the cone second, and the paper third." The paper! As in the small wrapper around the bottom of the cone with the Dairy Queen logo on it. Though she caught quite a bit of flack for that in years to come, no one could question her dedication to eating ice cream.
I relate this riveting anecdote from my childhood because it provides a completely unforced analogy for the two broad categories of cheese rinds: the paper logo and the cone. The former is meant to simply be a glorified wrapper, though some of the more ambitious cheese-eaters will find themselves "accidentally" consuming part of it in order to not let any of the good stuff go to waste. Many permanent retainers have fallen victim to such rinds (or so I am told). The cones, on the other hand, are where things get interesting. If you had the misfortune of missing Linh's cheese talk last semester, I will review. The three basic types of edible rinds are washed rinds, natural rinds, and the rinds on soft-ripened cheeses. Washed rinds and soft-ripened cheeses are both encased by a layer of carefully introduced mold that can range in color from white/gray to orange/yellow. The main difference between the two is that washed rinds ripen inwards while soft-ripened cheeses ripen outwards. The natural rind, on the other hand, is the lazy man's rind. In that case, the part of the curds that is exposed to air will, over time, naturally form a hard, dry crust like that on a baguette.
But, to quote a flyer I once saw at a bus stop for a website created by some guy with a PhD, "firing information at people and then testing them on it is ineffective." So instead, to aid instruction I have brought a hands-on demo to share with you all. Today for Friday Afternoon Cheese Time (FACT) I have a characteristic example of each of these types of edible rind, complete with some fresh naturally rinded baguettes. So come and join me on the 6th floor at precisely 3:35 to learn about the best kind of boundary conditions: the ones you can eat!
The Brie Madonna
FACT: The Beginning of The End. Cheese and Bread at 3:35 on the 6th Floor
They say that all good things must end. If it is true of Jedi, it is true of grad school. At a certain point one feels an almost otherworldly push to finish, like the music that plays when an Academy Award speech has gone on a little too long or that awkward feeling associated with a conversation in which the other party clearly has no desire to spend the next ten minutes talking in the hallway. Whether it be because of actual academic achievement or because of an advisor looking to upgrade to a newer model, the end result is the same: tick tock. As this, my Nth Fall semester at Berkeley dawns, I no longer have to ask for whom this bell tolls, I now know it tolls for me.
Such is the common lot of all students, even post-docs in a sense, but for me there is an additional note of sadness. In a few short weeks I will be the only member of the original Fromage à Trois (AKA Les Frères de Gruyère AKA Les Élèves de Chevre ) who will not have passed on...and my time is short. I am Moses at the end of forty years (give or take) of leading his people (all of you) through the (cheese) wilderness. Aaron and Miriam (i.e. Drummond and Chris), my most trusted companions, are gone, while I stand alone on a mountaintop gazing at the promised land from a distance, burdened by the knowledge that I cannot be the one to lead you all there. For Moses, though, there was the hope that a promising young Joshua would take up the mantle in his absence; I have no such assurance. I fear a dark and gloomy future, one in which the Berkeley astronomer's idea of a caseous treat is that one weird green pesto cheese that occasionally appears at the Trader Joe's sponsored Colloquium Tea.
But rest assured, I will not go gentle into that good night. If indeed such a dark day is coming, that day is not today. I plan to use the year or so I have left in redoubling my efforts to raise the status quo of cheese and to perhaps inspire a young disciple along the way to one day take my place. So come join me in inaugurating what may turn out to be the final year of Friday Afternoon Cheese Time (FACT) at precisely 3:35 on the 6th floor. To celebrate I have some Cheeseboard baguettes and four cheeses that start with the letter 'T.' Get it? The beginning of "the end?" Cut me some slack here...it's going to be a long year; I need to pace myself creatively.
The Brie Madonna
Subject Line: TACT: The French Connection at 3:00
Has your FACT sense been tingling? I don't mean to alarm you, but it has been over a month since our last cheese time. Fear not: the drought is over. Come celebrate with "The French Connection" at precisely 3:00 on the 6th floor. Wondering about the name? Read on for an origin story filled with heartbreak and woe. I promise, it eventually ties back to cheese...stick with me and we'll get there. That or just skip to the last paragraph.
In middle school, our social studies teacher was never satisfied with the standard curriculum; he always sought to impart knowledge in the most creative way possible. To get a more "hands-on" feel for cultures around the world, we were split up into groups of four and each assigned a country to research with the ultimate goal of putting on a fashion show at the end of the semester. In retrospect, this sounds like a pretty cool assignment, but at the time my particular group was comprised of four of the most apathetic kids in the class so to us it just seemed like a cruel and unusual way to force us to do more work. Our country was Niger, but you wouldn't have been able to tell that from our group meetings, which mostly consisted of two of the guys incessantly discussing the finer points of their favorite "Simpsons" episodes while the remaining two of us twiddled our thumbs. Halfway through the time allotted for the project we still had not even come up with a name for our group. Other groups, however, were far along and had creative names like "Ghana With The Wind." Finally, one day, the other "thumb-twiddler" came in to class with a good idea after watching an old movie with his parents the night before. During our meeting, he suggested that we call ourselves "The French Connection" because Niger was a French colony for 58 years and thus its culture was heavily influenced by theirs. For some reason, we collectively decided this was a stupid idea and shot it down. I didn't know it at the time, but I learned later from Mom-to-Mom communications that the kid who suggested that name, let's just call him Dave, actually took this rejection pretty personally and was quite upset. I can't help but wonder whether our rejection was a contributing factor to the fact that he would eventually mature into one of the more insufferable people I have ever known (to this day I still have his posts blocked from appearing on my feed in Facebook).
Ultimately, I don't even remember the name we settled on, and our final presentation consisted of one member of the group essentially doing stand-up comedy to "work the crowd" while I catwalked around on stage in a dress made of African-looking material. The rest of the group emphatically insisted that it was not a dress, but I couldn't tell the difference and was pretty embarrassed....but that's beside the point. We ended up with a "C" or something.
Anyway, for this special edition of Tuesday Afternoon Cheese Time (TACT), I would like to retroactively honor my old friend Dave by finally using his title, "The French Connection." It won't do him any good, but at least it will make me feel better about myself. Today we will feature three excellent French cheeses along with the long-awaited return of Wren's bread. Bonus thematic element: The very French Daniel LeCoanet (a former graduate student of Eliot's), who never got to experience FACT in his own day is also visiting for the first part of this week. Join us at 3:00 on the sixth floor!
Les Frères de Gruyère and The Bouldering Baker
Subject Line: FACT: The Good Shepherd (AKA The Gospel of Cheese) at 3:40
Most people are familiar with the story of David and Goliath: how a young shepherd boy armed only with a sling and a few stones slew a mighty, war-trained giant. But what was a little shepherd boy doing on the front lines of the battlefield in the first place? Cheese. In addition to bringing basic food supplies to his three brothers, David was entrusted with a gift for the commander of their division consisting of a whopping "ten cheeses." Ten!! Sounds like a young man with his priorities in order. Though his brothers were the ones busy training for war and engaging the enemy, David’s time spent tending the flock and growing strong in the art of cheese-making were evidently more effective in bringing about victory.
Now, I would like to say that for today's Friday Afternoon Cheese Time (FACT) we have a selection from those same ten, giant-slaying cheeses, but unfortunately all we really know about them is that they were (presumably) made from sheep’s milk. But all is not lost. For hope, we turn to the messianic interpretation of the story of David. From that perspective, David himself was but a shadow of a greater shepherd to come, hundreds, or even thousands, of years later: the ultimate "good shepherd,” whose sheep hear his voice and who lays down his life for his sheep. Imagine how great the cheese from those sheep would taste!
Residents of Campbell Hall, I come as a voice crying in the wilderness: make straight the paths to your stomachs because the promised cheese is at hand. All previous FACTs were but bearing witness to the FACT mightier than they, whose sandals they are not worthy to carry. So come all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you three excellent sheep's milk cheeses (with bread) at precisely 3:40 on the 6th floor. Taste and see that they are good!
Les Frères de Gruyère
The views and opinions expressed in this email do not necessarily reflect those of the university, the astronomy department, Les Frères de Gruyère, or really anyone else. Though if you do find someone, tell them to hit me up and maybe we can hang.
Subject Line: FACT: What's That Smell? Find out at 3:35 On The Sixth Floor
Thank you all for your nasal vigilance. We have been on high alert recently ever since a guy with a striking resemblance to Philipp Moesta was going around claiming to have "lost his key card." The source of the strange smell has been discoverd and it turns out that we will need all of your help in order to remove it from our halls. Some negligent grad student must have left a few batches of milk out for too long and, as it coagulated, bacteria had its way. At precisely 3:35 this afternoon we will be setting out the offending by-products on the sixth floor for you to smell for yourselves and help us with clean-up duty.
OK, I'll drop the act. Today for Friday Afternoon Cheese Time (FACT) we will be celebrating stinky cheese. The three cheeses we have for you (including the most infamous cheese of them all) might make you turn up your nose a bit, but the adventurous among you will find them to taste "oh so good." Any bumpkin can enjoy a cheese that smells good, but it takes a real gourmand to appreciate something that smells like feet. Though, to be honest, I was a little disappointed in the strength of the odor for the three cheeses we have; it is definitely on the milder side, all things considered. Nothing like Dexter and Nina had to smell when they cleaned out the refrigerators a few weeks ago.
Anyway, come join us at 3:35 on the sixth floor to enjoy the underappreciated delicacy of the stink along with Wren's not-so-stinky bread (with a new recipe!). For those of you who may have forgotten a key step of your normal morning routine, say, putting on deodorant, brushing your teeth, or taking a shower, this is also a perfect opportunity for you interact socially without feeling self-conscious.
Les Frères de Gruyère and The Bouldering Baker
Subject Line: Strange Odor in Campbell
some of you may be noticing a strange odor emanating from the sixth floor. Currently we do not know the source, but we don't believe that it is a cause for major concern. It is possible that someone outside the department decided to pull some kind of practical joke, so I will use this opportunity to remind you to never let anyone follow you into cardkey-controlled areas. And I mean anyone. Even an old lady in a wheel chair claiming to be someone's grandma asking for you to hold open the door. If you don't recognize her, tell her to get lost. Trust no one.
What we can confirm is that the odor is not associated with any 4/20 related substances. This is Berkeley after all, so even I know what that smells like.
Subject Line: FACT: Cheese of Innocence and of Experience at 3:35 on the 6th Floor [Vegan Options Available]
As the prospective graduate students roam our halls, it seems a fitting time to reflect on the role of age in the academic environment. All else being equal, a researcher in the early years of graduate school (innocence) will approach a problem much differently than a senior faculty member (experience). This is particularly evident in contrast. While innocence comes with vim and vigor, experience comes with methodical composure. Where innocence says "crazy, but might just work;" experience says "crazy and a waste of my time." Innocence, without being rooted in one specific field or method, quickly jumps from one to the other, learning on the fly, in search of the fastest way to get an answer. Experience, on the other hand, channels a few select skills to masterful perfection in order to reach a final goal. Independently, both innocence and experience can prosper to some degree, but it is only when the two come together (like they do at Berkeley) that they are able to create something truly magical….or, at least, publishable.
With that in mind, for today's Friday Afternoon Cheese Time (FACT), we will sample two pairs of cheese. Each pair contains the same cheese but at two different ages, one of innocence and another of experience. Sampling them side by side highlights the merits of each and allows the taster to isolate the effects of the affineuring (fancy word for cheese aging) process.
Furthermore, our resident baker will be supplying her usual high quality sourdough bread and we will also have some non-dairy spreads for vegans, the lactose intolerant, and those who "can't have cheese unless it's mozzarella on pizza" (you know who you are).
So come join us on the 6th floor at precisely 3:35 PM to enjoy some good cheese, welcome the prospective students, and embrace the knowledge that we are all slowly becoming hard and nutty.
Le Fromage à Trois and The Bouldering Baker
DISCLAIMER: The descriptions of those of innocence and of experience were necessarily dealing with generalities. I apologize if they have offended anyone. With that said, I hope no one is taking too seriously an email sent by someone named "Caseous Clay” that applies William Blake to cheese.
Subject Line: Affirmative (F)ACTion: Cheese From Underrepresented Countries at 3:35
When it comes to cheese, some countries get all the love. Not being one of the big players like France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, or the US, can make it tough to make a name for yourself in the cheese-making world. As an institution of higher learning, it is our solemn duty to combat such prejudices by any means necessary. So for this edition of Friday Afternoon Cheese Time (FACT) we give the little guy a boost by showcasing cheeses from non-traditional countries such as Germany, Croatia, and Portugal on the 6th floor at 3:35 PM exactly.
This is a noble cause we are fighting for, so I encourage all of you to not lose hope that true change can be effected. Though it may seem like we are fighting an uphill battle, a great man once said: "It ain't about how hard you hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward." That is why for our final, bonus cheese, we turn to the city that knows a thing or two about being the underdog and yet coming out on top; the city that showed us that it is far from a fait accompli that the New England Patriots of the world will continue their oppressive reign forever. Though it might take 52 years, sometimes in the end you do get to say YO, EAGLES YA DID IT !!!!!
Brought to you by
Le Fromage à Trois
Subject Line: FACT: Discover the School Spirit You Never Knew You Had With Mold and Gold at 3:40
At some point you may have ascertained that the university with which we happen to be associated has the official colors of "Berkeley Blue" and "California Gold." I have heard that those who are passionate about these things take offense to the "gold" being referred to as "yellow." I am sure these same people would also take offense to the "blue" being referred to as "mold," but I am going to do it anyway.
If you haven't already guessed, this week's Friday Afternoon Cheese Time is primarily focused on the oft-maligned blue cheese. For those of you who are less adventurous, don't panic; this particular selection is on the mild side and likely different from most of the blue cheeses you have tried. Furthermore, we also have a mold-less cheese which happens to be $\sim$ gold in color, to round out the theme.
So join us for Mold & Gold at 3:40 on the 6th floor, where we will have 3 types of cheese and a baguette (unfortunately not Wren's this week). If that isn't enough to spark your inner golden bear, then here is a little something to get you in the mood.
Also, due to popular demand (and our lightening wallets), we will also be having a collection box for donations supporting both past and future FACTs. This isn't one of those "suggested donation" things that is really just an entrance fee that we are too lazy to enforce; please feel free to abstain. You're presence alone is already a sufficient contribution.
Le Fromage à Trois and The Bouldering Baker (in spirit)
Subject Line: FACT: Cheese from Saints and Sinners at 3:40 on the Sixth Floor
Though Halloween may seem like a decidedly secular holiday, "All Hallows Eve" is actually the first day of a larger holiday celebration called Allhallowtide that includes All Saints Day (aka "All Hallows Day") on November 1 and All Souls day on November 2. These three days have traditionally been set aside to honor the dead including both the canonized saints and martyrs ("all hallows") and the unrecognized, common "saints" ("all souls"). On the eve of All Hallows Day, it was believed that the souls of all the dead were given one last chance to roam the earth before departing. Now, one could imagine that there might be some among the recently departed whose still living earthly relations might not be particularly excited to run into on that day. Hence the tradition arose of wearing masks and disguises.
Or at least, that's what I can piece together from a combination of what I remember from childhood and a brief Wikipedia visit.
[For the full multimedia experience, at this point in the email you should start listening to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PaWGOv2JRw]
Anyway, for today's Friday Afternoon Cheese Time (FACT) we honor saints and sinners alike by partaking in arguably their greatest contribution to the earthly realm: the cheeses perpetuated in their name. I don't know about you, but in my book inspiring others to create a new cheese unquestionably counts as one of the two required post-mortem miracles for canonization. Come see if you agree at 3:40 on the sixth floor!
Furthermore, Wren (henceforth to be know as the Bouldering Baker) will also be providing some of her excellent homemade bread.
Brought to you by
Le Fromage à Trois and our official partner, The Bouldering Baker
Subject Line: FACT: Orwellian Cheese at 3:40 on the 6th Floor
With all of the suspicious packages, masked vigilantes, hoards of police roaming the streets, and helicopters buzzing overhead, these past few weeks in Berkeley may have seemed rather dystopian. Thus, for this edition of Friday Afternoon Cheese Time (FACT), we turn to George Orwell for some guidance, a man who knew a thing or two about dystopias. He certainly didn't let his grim fears about the future prevent him from enjoying the finer things in life, like good hunks of English cheese. He made this quite clear in arguably his best work, In Defense of English Cooking, where he makes some bold claims about English cheese that we will attempt to substantiate this afternoon.
So please join us as we take a break from the cares of the world and sample two of George Orwell's favorite cheeses (plus another traditional English cheese) at 3:40 on the sixth floor. For those of you who are are GS's and P's, afterwards we will head down to the first floor for the S.
Brought to you by
Le Fromage à Trois
Subject Line: Come Get ThuACT: Cheese and Baguettes at 3PM on the 6th Floor
We will be hosting another edition of Afternoon Cheese Time at 3PM on the 6th floor. As previously warned, this recurring event is not exclusive to Fridays and irregularly scheduled.
Today we have three superb soft italian cheeses made from a mix of cow, goat, sheep, and buffalo milk. Come up to enjoy them smeared on a (relatively) fresh sourdough baguette with us in 30 minutes!
PS: by we, I mean Chris, Drummond, and I. I proposed that we unofficially call ourselves the Fromage a Trois, but that name received mixed reviews.