It was told to us by the generations of Questies that came before, that the pristine tradition of wine and cheese was a sacred institution, bred by the curious, intellectual, and cultured minds of the first Questies. And so it was seen in the event itself; smooth jazz would waft into dimly lit rooms as students conversed with tutors and one-another, regarding a myriad of their academic interests. There was, of course, both wine and cheese present. And who can forget the heart-warming tradition of reading a poem or children’s story at the height of the evening.
It’s hard to imagine a professor at a wine and cheese party in this day and age. Don’t get me wrong, Quest students are just as cultured and as intellectually driven as they used to be, but now there are simply too many of us. And so we find that the nature of the wine and cheese gatherings begin to reflect this; in order to cater to the great crowds which converge, some sacrifices have had to be made.
For one, we largely got rid of the cheese. This is was because cheese is something which can only be provided by the hosts, whilst everybody can bring wine. Secondly, we lost an element of discourse: it’s hard to hold a serious conversation about the nuances of socio-politics when you’ve got to dodge wine spilling from the outstretched hands of students, shuffling their way towards an oxygen source.
And so, with little room to talk, it is not uncommon to find wine and cheese gatherings relying on the power of music and dance to satiate the crowd’s hunger for amusement. Tutors no longer attend wine and cheese, for the above listed reasons. Indeed, the wine and cheese of today is far removed and barely recognizable from the wine and cheese and yester-years…
But that does not mean we do not pay our respects to the old ways.
Though the traditions have invariably changed to meet the demands of the student body, there shall always be an element of classiness and community feeling between students- this, after all, remains the essential purpose of wine and cheese. I remember the famous Forth North Wine and Cheese events, where all the campus would gather to enjoy a variety of party options, from stealthy snack eating and socializing, to blaring techno music and LED lights.
I have fond memories of being stranded in a crowded room only to realize that soon the swarm was swaying together to the sound of a live Jazz piano solo. The tradition of a story or poem at the peak of the evening continues strong, whilst many parties even cater out cheese, despite the myth that bringing cheese to a wine and cheese party causes bad luck.
Sometimes, it’s nice to combine ancient Quest phenomenon with more recent ones. Of particular popularity are the ‘Wine and Cheesus’ events, in which the members of the pizza club, Cheesus Crust Pizza, cater out slices to gallivanters. For the first Wine and Cheese of the year, we even had a Wine and Cheesus event complete with a live Jazz band.
A particularly fun one from last year
Yes, times are changing, and we may see Wine and Cheese adapt in ways we never thought before possible. But I am confident that there will always be at the root of it all a core purpose, feeling and ritual to tie in the past with the present and future.