You can run, but you cannot hide. They will hunt you down, mercilessly, pitilessly, tirelessly. "They," of course, are the Annual Giving office at Princeton University.
The very first letter we received at our new apartment here in Paris was from Princeton: a request for a donation to some department or other. Today, we receive three pieces of mail from Princeton on the same day: a request for money from the rowing association (Anthony rowed his freshman year), a thank you card for having donated to Annual Giving (which we did online, to save paper, but then they mailed us a card anyway...), and the PAW (a.k.a the Princeton Alumni Weekly, a magazine which does not actually come out weekly, which you can choose to see as ironically humorous or moronically misnamed).
When I lived in the Philippines, I spent about six months teaching scuba diving (I call it my ski bum phase, but I did it underwater) on a tiny island called Boracay. At that time, Boracay did not have regular electricity, and my housing did not have plumbing of any sort. I lived in a little cabin where I had to cross a sandy path beneath the palm trees in order to get to the outhouse I shared with a Filipino family, except that I couldn't go to the bathroom during wind storms for fear of a coconut falling on my head. That would be an embarrassing obituary: "Killed by a coconut on the way to pee."
This was before the days of wide-spread internet and e-mail, and certainly cell phones, and my parents would not have been able to find where I was on a map if you paid them. So you can imagine my surprise when one day I was called off the beach to the dive shop because a phone call had come through from the States. I raced to the phone, imagining some health scare from one of my parents. Instead I heard a chipper voice saying, "Hello, Ms. Regelman? My name is Ashley, and I'm a senior here at Princeton University. We want to thank you for contributing regularly in the past and would like to know if you would donate to Annual Giving this year as well..."
As I am finishing the previous paragraph, I hear a ping telling me an e-mail has arrived in my inbox. It is, naturally, an e-mail from Princeton class of '89 telling me to check out my class website and also pay my class dues. Moments after (and I am not exaggerating this for effect), I see on my Facebook home page an invitation from the Princeton Alumni Association of France to a gathering in two weeks at an Irish pub in Paris. If I write this post much longer, I expect a knock on the door from a perky undergrad in a tiger-striped sweatshirt, armed with sleeping bag, tooth-brush, and point-of-sale credit card reader.
So, you may wonder where in the world I am, but the omniscient Orange-and-Black already knows where to find me. And, if you are a Tiger, they know where to find you, too. So don't bother to hide; they're coming for you...
THE CHEESE: Gouda de la Citadelle d'Arras
Mostly, when you think of Gouda, you think of Holland, and with good reason. Gouda is a cheese of Dutch origin, named after the city in which it was originally traded. But up in northern France, close to the border of Belgium and, therefore, not too far from the Netherlands, they also make a mighty fine Gouda. In fact, I buy the smallest sliver possible -- as part of my campaign to eat 365 cheeses without going broke or growing enormous -- but once I taste it, I regret that immediately.
Part of it is that it make's a nice break from very French-style cheeses. It simply tastes different. It is so sweet and nutty. And though it crumbles and breaks, it turns creamy in the mouth. And when you're lucky enough to get a little crystalized dry part, like that white indent in the photo above, it tastes almost like a crunchy little candy. I wish I had a huge wheel of it!
Well, I say that, but the wheels really are big. This aged, unpasteurized cow's milk cheese is coated with a very thick, dry crust -- one of the few that I wouldn't recommend eating. Though I love this cheese so desperately, I gnaw right up to the edge of it. It's aged at least half a year and can be aged over a year.
Apparently, I'm not the only one that adores it. It's a bronze-medal winning cheese, judged from among 200 cheeses by 79 judges in Tours last year (June 2013). It is aged by Jean-François Dubois, from his new fromagerie La Finarde, which is housed in an old shed within the citadel walls. This seems appropriate for one of the oldest cheeses in the world; Gouda has been mentioned since as far back as the 12th century.
If you live on the East Coast of the US, you may even find this cheese sold there. If not, the best substitute I can recommend there is something like Old Amsterdam, though this is, obviously, a Dutch Gouda.
The Citadel, nicknamed "La belle inutile" ("The useless beauty") because it was never used, dates to the 17th century. The rather citadel-like Princeton was founded about 70 years later in the mid-18th century, but more to the point both the cheese and the school color are orange. I would've used Mimolette, which is even orange-er, but alas, I had already used it for my discussion on the politics of the school schedule here. Anyway, I'm not a huge fan of Mimolette and would rather use a cheese I really like -- one that's really gouda (ugh, pardon the pun) -- to pair with my lovely alma mater.
While we're speaking about history, we can go even further back. Though Gouda is one of the oldest known cheeses, it's far from the first cheese. Cheese has long been dated back to about 2000 B.C., thanks to Egyptian wall paintings. But recently, as reported in Smithsonian Magazine, scientists from the University of Bristol, some Polish universities, and (wait for it...) Princeton have discovered traces of cheese in clay shards in Poland, carbon dated to around 5000 B.C.