Exclusives: Raising Kate
PAW web exclusive column by Kate Swearengen '04 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lambs, grades, and
Roast: Those members of the Princeton community who spurn the
Gregorian calendar in favor of the Julian celebrated Pascha, or
Eastern Orthodox Easter, on April 27, on the lawn of the Hellenic
Studies building, at 43 Prospect Street.
It was a sunny day, slightly cool, but warmer than those that
had preceded it perfect weather for the traditional Easter
The crowd was not expected until early afternoon, but a handful
of people some Greek graduate students and professors, the
bartender, and a lone Serbian started straggling in around
8:30 a.m. Under the direction of Antonis-from-Olives, preparations
were made for the lamb roast. Twin metal grates were placed on the
ground, and piles of charcoal briquets were heaped on top. After
some debate, the stakes that would form the supports of the spit
were hammered into the ground. In these matters, precision is critical
too low to the flames, and the outside of the lamb will burn
before the interior cooks properly; too far from the flames, and
the meal won't be ready until midnight. The lambs themselves were
placed over the coals at 9:00 a.m., and the ouzo made its debut
not long after. Everyone took turns cooking the lamb an average
stay at the spit was 10 minutes, less if the wind was blowing hard,
longer if the person at the crank had someone to ferry drinks to
him. Those practiced in the art of lamb roasting turned the spit
with a graceful, languid motion; the neophytes cranked with exuberance.
The lamb roasting was carried out in the side lawn, just across
a low stone wall from Tiger Inn's horseshoe pit. In the past, T.I.
members have been known to join the Pascha festivities when their
own beer runs out. This year, the only marauders were an inquisitive
Public Safety officer and a young couple who jogged by on the sidewalk
with their baby carriage and peered, aghast, at the roasting lambs.
In the past, Pascha has coincided with Lawnparties, the Sunday
before Reading Period when undergraduates don pastel frocks and
flock to the Street for a champagne breakfast and an afternoon of
live music. Lawnparties cap off Houseparties, the two nights of
strenuous drinking and partying conducted at the eating clubs. By
the time they hit the Street on Sunday, the undergraduates are blurry
and hungover. The sight of skinned lambs, their heads intact and
their legs bound to the spits with wire, unnerves them. This year,
Lawnparties were scheduled for the following week, and so the day
passed peacefully, without the squalls and frenetic drumming that
used to emanate from the neighboring Eating Clubs. The crowd listened
to Greek songs, played on a portable stereo that one of the graduate
students had brought:
"The river has carried us away.
Take off the black clothes, take them off, my little Helen,
My desire has consumed me."
"I am not taking off the black clothes because they look
nice on me.
I am young, I am dark-haired, and they become me."
"And this little ribbon you put in your hair, never put it
on again, my Helen,
Because you make the boys wither."
"I will always wear this little black ribbon.
I am young, I am lovely, the most beautiful in the village."
The majority of the crowd was Greek, but there were many exceptions
the eclectic gathering included Professor Peter Brown of
the history department, a French couple from New York City, and
a graduate student from NYU, originally from Hong Kong, who makes
a special trip to Princeton each spring for the lamb roast.
As the afternoon went on, the beasts browned nicely. From time
to time, Antonis painted them with a mixture of olive oil and oregano
that he had mixed in a plastic bucket. Although the lamb itself
would not be ready until 4:00 p.m., long after this writer left,
plates of pita bread, olives, and cheese were set out to tide the
Professor Brown approached a tray of fried organ meat. I asked
him if he knew what it was.
"As long as you don't tell me, I'll eat it," he said,
Out of the Doghouse: After a thorough spanking stemming
from his recent diatribe against Princeton graduate students, English
Professor John Fleming has come out in defense of Princeton's grading
practices. In his April 28 Daily Princetonian column, Fleming made
the oft but not overly stated point that there's no
reason why Princeton students, who are the best in the country,
should not be making A's. That is, maybe grade inflation doesn't
really exist at Princeton.
"Forget the students for a moment, and turn your attention
to the Princeton faculty. Is our dean, president, or provost willing
to declare publicly that most professors at Princeton cannot be
placed in the top category of ability and performance, that most
of us are in fact "C" professors?"
Fleming went on to speculate as to the faculty reaction if the
University administration decided that only a set number of professors
were of "A" caliber, and then adjusted their salaries
accordingly. Well done, Professor Fleming, well done.
SARS Scare: In addition to carrying regular updates on
the Homeland Security status, the Princeton website is now providing
information about the Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic.
The posting has generated some criticism and a great deal of amusement
from Princeton students and faculty, for whom the greatest threat
to Old Nassau had hitherto been the possibility that the Frist deli
would run out of brie.
Nevertheless, the website posting has also generated some paranoia.
Bertrand, a friend of mine in the Program in Applied and Computational
Mathematics, panicked when his Chinese officemate, who had been
sick, disappeared for a week.
"Min told me on Friday that he had a cold, and that I would
probably catch it because the ventilation in the building is bad.
I didn't say anything, because I thought he had caught my cold in
the first place."
The next day, Min did not show up at the office. When Bertrand
went home to the Butler Apartments, he found a medical team, wearing
face masks and carrying a stretcher, waiting outside his colleague's
unit. An ambulance was parked outside.
"It's SARS," Bertrand told me gloomily that evening.
"You'll be fine."
"Fine, except that I'm going to die."
Two days later, Min had still not returned to his office.
"He is definitely dead," said Bertrand, explaining that
Min practically lived in the math building, and that only a mortal
sickness could explain his absence.
I picked up a mug, still full of tea, sitting on Min's desk.
"Don't touch anything!"
But a few days later, Min reappeared at his office, sniffling
and a little pale, but no worse for wear. It turns out that Min
had called the Princeton Medical Center to request transport; when
his phone battery died, midway through the call, he assumed that
the hospital had not received the message, and drove himself to
the emergency room. So much for the Princeton SARS epidemic.
You can reach Kate Swearengen