Thursday, March 13, 2008

Ode to Material Culture

This piece of paper has lived in my recipe binder since we moved here.

Someone at church made it, and someone from Relief Society gave it to me, and we've used it on several occasions. The more I looked at this, the more I loved it. It’s a beautiful representation of the material culture of Mormon wards.

(For those of you who didn't take my advice to take Anthropology 101 in college, material culture is the objects that shape and reflect a culture. Think, who made this, who used it, and why? What does it say about the people who used/made it?)

I love the kitschy title, with the capitalized “Brown Thumb” and three exclamation points. I love that space that preceding the three exclamation points. (By what rule of usage did the author justify putting that in?) I love that the author used the word “Crop” instead of, say, plant. I love that the crop list includes salisfy and horseradish and rutabaga and muskmelon. Who on earth is planting those things, and what on earth are they? I conclude the author is from one of those real Utah farming families on whose land our suburban housing development is built.

But combined with its farm roots, this paper also reveals an author living in the modern world. This person knew how to use not only a photocopy machine and word processor, but tricky tabs and columns. And note the three web sites cited in the bottom corner.

It got me all sentimental for the church dittos of my youth made from someone's fancy typewriter that had an italic font. Remember those? In our ward it was Sister Keyes who had such a typewriter, and every Young Women's event had an invitation or handout made from it.


  1. I love those people that think punctuation is their personal playground. It always cracks me up. I mean - I use dashes way too frequently - but that's a whole different thing !!!

  2. Angela, would you mind emailing me with a better image of that list? It's way blurry !!! in your blog.

    Love you, love your mind as expressed in your blog, love your kids, love your siblings' kids.


  3. I am going to sign up for that anthropology class next chance I get! I'm with ya...I have a poster on my kitchen with the Oregon produce calendar. I am gratified with the way almost everyone who walks in my kitchen studies it for awhile. Why doesn't every kitchen have one of these posters? I would submit that it is part of the the Oregonian material culture to know exactly when strawberries are on and more importantly, exactly when blackberries are on. Nobody is surprised that mushrooms are "on" all year long.