Thursday, October 16, 2008

Tea and Ouzo: Social Traditions at the ASCSA

A place like the American School is full of particular traditions, and long lasting ones at that. Many of these traditions center around the Saloni in Loring Hall (aka the Common/Living Area). The most popular are, without doubt, Tea and Ouzo. Every day at 5pm is the Tea Hour, complete with tea (obviously) and cakes. It happens five days a week, month after month, year after year. That’s a lot of tea, especially given that we’re Americans, and we gave up tea a long time ago. But the tea hour is primarily social, and harkens back to the olden days when the American School was a place of gentile living.

I haven’t quite figured out when Tea started as a tradition, but it’s likely to have started as a daily thing when Loring Hall was first built. Yet, as Bob Bridges just told me, teas were a big deal at the school from the very beginning, since they were a great way for scholars of all ages to get together and meet in an non-academic environment. He mentioned a tea guest book from back in the day signed by Sophie Schliemann and the Duke of Sparta – I’ll have to check it out in the Archives. In the 1920s when she was a Regular Member, Wilhelmina van Ingen attended several teas. She writes in her letters and journals about them, but they seem to have been special occasions (rather than daily), hosted by the ladies in nearby houses (since Loring did not yet exist). Several of them were put on by Ida Thallon Hill, over at the Blegen/Hill house. Van Ingen talks about how pleasing the teas were and ALWAYS notes who poured. I guess the tea-pouring-part was a big deal. On December 8th, 1927, she was given the honor of pouring herself, which she made clear to note; this was also the day that, at tea, she was introduced to Professor Dörpfeld himself, a major excitement according to her comments. So already back in the day, the School teas were a way for geeky Regular Members to meet archaeological Bigwigs.

Tea, Loring Hall's Saloni, October 16, 2008

And then there is Ouzo Hour, every day at 7pm. Drinks before dinner is a big deal among archaeologists here in Greece – when I was living in Nafplio for the summer, we’d always go over to someone’s house for pre-dinner drinks, where I distinctly remember stuffing my face with pistachios. When Ron Stroud came in 1959, Ouzo Hour was an already established tradition. Day after day, week after week, year after year. That’s a lot of ouzo, too. My own Undergraduate Advisor, Ann-Marie Knoblauch, has given me strong-worded warnings about bewaring the Saloni in Loring Hall. I believe the term she used was a ‘vortex,’ sucking you away from your spot in the Library, where you were supposed to be doing work. After all, if you come down for Tea from 5-6 pm, then it's almost time for Ouzo Hour to start at 7, so you might as well stay in the Saloni until then. And then Dinner starts at 8pm, with coffee in the Saloni afterwards, and then just like that, if you’re not careful, there goes your whole evening into a cup of tea and archaeological storytime.

Ouzo Hour, Loring Hall's Saloni, October 15, 2008

I guess it’s a good thing I don’t like tea or ouzo. The cakes are nice, though.

Tomorrow morning bright and early we head off for Trip III, to Central Greece. I’ve spent the day packing, buying maps, getting my handout together (which includes my Flowchart of the ritual process at the Oracle of Trophonius), had lunch with Carolina and Anthony from OSU, etc. I did have an hour to head down to the Museum of Cycladic Art to see the Russian Modernism exhibit. If anyone is still around in Athens, I highly recommend it. There were several pieces by artists like Malevich, the acknowledged creator of Suprematism, and others such as the Constructivist Rodchenko and avant-garde Popova.

The exhibit space; Malevich's Black Square

It’s a small collection, but a really great one. Glad I made it before the exhibit closed, and glad I took Myroslava Mudrak's modern art class so that I could have half an idea of what I was looking at.
Katie Rask, 'self-portrait' with Rodchenko


Anonymous said...

Great self-portrait!!

J. Harker said...

I really, really want to institute tea-time at the University.

Megan said...

I hadn't heard about the tea and ouzo hours before, and I already know that I'm going to have to watch out for those when I'm there. I'm always amused by the bits of life in academia, and especially in archaeology, that harken back to when it was all the purview of the aristocracy. I spent last summer at the American Academy in Rome, and it felt like the dinner ritual every night was straight out of some early twentieth century gentleman-scholar's villa.