View Full Version : Social class issues

3-23-11, 5:38pm
My dd has been reading a lot of British fiction (and also watching Larkrise to Candleford) and the question of social class frequently comes up. (Why does Sam say "Mr. Frodo" and call him "Master"?)

The British social classes are of course much more ingrained than in the U.S. I think we have a tendency to try and dismiss the issue of class altogether. At the same time, it seems that the driving force for many people is to move up the social ladder. I certainly see that the goal of many parents I know is to get their kids into Ivy League colleges (which the parents assume will guarantee an upper-class status.) Class seems to be the elephant in the room.

DD has been asking what class our family is. I have explained to her that class in the U.S. is determined by a number of factors (which vary depending on where you live - education being more important in Boston than San Francisco; income more important in Texas than Seattle, and so on.)

Some of the factors are:

Educational attainment, and educational attainment of your parents. (as well as the kind of schools and colleges attended.)
Your profession, and the profession of your parents (and even ancestors.)
The kind of neighborhood where you grew up and currently live.
Your income, and the income of your parents.
Your values/priorities.
How long your family/ancestors have been living in the U.S.
How you spend your leaisure time.
Things you own that might be considered status symbols: house, car, etc.

At any rate, I told dd that we are "creative class", which takes the whole upper/lower factor out of it (and also has the advantage of being true.)

I have been interested in the issue of class since reading Paul Fussell's Class: A Guide Through the American Status System many years ago.

Anyone have thoughts to share on this?

3-23-11, 5:54pm
Not quite sure what happened as I thought I'd posted a reply! Here goes attempt 2.

Whilst I cannot speak for the 'class system' in the USA - we know our place in the UK!

Here's a Youtube version of the classic British 'I know my place' skit - using puppets, but also using the Ronnie Barker, John Cleese and Ronnie Corbett recording of the dialogue.

3-23-11, 6:21pm
Lovely, Ishbel....that was cute.

3-24-11, 12:02am
We like to think that we TRY to dismiss the issues of class in the U.S., and we fondly believe we are successful, but in truth, we are as class conscious and aware of the most subtle of differences of class as any other class ridden society, and many spend most of their lives trying to claw their way into a class above their own.

In most cases, it's way more difficult that most realize, as many of the subtle markers of class are just that, subtle, and the people who are trying to strive are unaware of how many ways they signal where they came from as opposed to where they would like to be.

It's just been more open in Europe, and more denied here......but certainly present.

Does seem like a whole lot of importance attached to something ridiculous, but it's certainly in there, and often ready to trip up folks when they least expect it.

3-24-11, 10:36am
It's all the little hidden 'signs' - such as drinking your soup from the wrong side of a soup spoon and bowl... Milk in tea - before the tea or after? Lavatory or toilet? Lounge or sitting room? Subtlety is how one recognises one of one's own class, donchanknow? !!!!

3-24-11, 10:47am
My people draw the most subtle distinctions between double-wide, single-wide, aluminum vs. copper wiring, Chevy vs. Ford up on blocks, blue tick vs. redbone, PBR vs. Schlitz, whether you use the squirrel's brains for breakfast in eggs or in sausage instead, and those sorts of things.

3-24-11, 12:07pm
Class is an issue we were very aware of growing up. My mom's family has an odd history. Her Dad's family came here as an adventure when their British, upper-class-but-broke-youngest-son-of-someone-with-a-title parent chucked it all and moved to Canada, then the U.S. He married a Scottish immigrant of no particular breeding and by the time my grandpa came along they had made and lost a fortune in the depression. Grandpa grew up without a lot of money in a rural area of the Midwest surrounded by farmers and such, but with a memory of having been something different not that long before.

Grandpa became very wealthy, but in a blue collar business, and married my grandma, a poor Swedish farm girl he had gone to high school with. She is incredibly class conscious and self conscious about where she fits in the world. My Grandpa's mom was brutal with her about her humble manners and background, even though her background was originally just as humble. She actually told my grandma that if she were poor white Swedish trash she'd have slit her own wrists. Grandma had her MIL's headstone made of Swedish marble. :) It was a really healthy relationship. :) Grandma started her own successful business in the 1950s. In spite of her success and her money she still ultimately feels like a low-class, uneducated freak and she uses her money as a tool to own people and buy their respect.

Dad's family was poor, but is littered with geniuses. They are extremely well educated. Ridiculously so. Part of it is from a genuine love of learning, but at least in my Dad's case I think part of it is that he had something to prove. My mom's parents attempted to buy him off marrying my mom. He was a threatening combination of "the wrong sort of people" and much more educated than they are. He's half Jewish and half French Canadian and my grandma once told me that he was "too dark to really be white." It's really all a lot of one-upmanship and it turns my stomach.

I think the whole thing, as LC said, is a whole lot of BS about nothing. I see people as sacred, made in the image and likeness of God. I am really blown away when I think of the beauty of that. I do get uncomfortable sometimes when I'm out of my element, either in higher or lower circumstances than that of my upbringing, but I see it as growing pains. The natural discomfort of being stretched, but that can be a healthy place to be.

3-24-11, 2:24pm
Yea, class as status is BS to bother to pursue. Now class as an income/wealth bracket: I understand why people pursue this. They simply like what that income/wealth can buy. To what degree they are really well served by liking it, ah well that's always the question. But that money does help them get things that have subjective value at the time, self-evidently. And sure I believe that having certain class markers can get you into better income brackets.

3-24-11, 7:19pm
Not sure how old your dd is, Gardenarian, but it might be helpful for her at some point to become aware of the class structure in the US and how those subtle class indicators can unfairly advantage or disadvantage the people who bear them.* You can certainly present it as something that you, personally, disagree with -- but once your dd is in college or in the work force, she will run up against some of those issues and it will be helpful to her to have an understanding of what's going on.

*Edited to add: For example, a co-worker of mine was let go last fall for a series of transparently flimsy reasons supposedly related to her work performance. She also hails from rural Kentucky, has a deep "hick" accent, and is missing several of her front teeth. I do not believe these things are unrelated.

3-24-11, 7:33pm
And sure I believe that having certain class markers can get you into better income brackets.

ANM - this is just what I was thinking about. When I lived in Boston the social climbing was way more obvious than out here on the West coast - I had friends who had fake British accents, EVERYONE in my mom's neighborhood drove a Volvo (with a public radio bumper sticker,) people on the 'T' would flaunt their intellectual books. Yuck.

I live in San Francisco now, and there are status battles - who is the greenest? who knows the coolest celebrities? who has the latest gadget? (I'm taking a horticulture class and I'm the only one in the class of 20 who doesn't have an iPhone.)

The homeschooling thing really bugs me - all these parents who are eager for early admissions to the very "best" colleges. There are a lot of homeschool parents who thought the article "Why Chinese Moms are Superior" was a great guide to education. I'm homeschooling to get out of the rat race, and because I don't think education can come in a box (not even one covered with ivy.) Why would I want to push my kid into that kind of life?

At the same time, I'm aware that I'm constantly showing my status by the car I drive (I'm cheap! And I don't use a lot of gas!) my shoes (Dansko clogs - sure they're comfortable, but all the faculty at my college wear them...) and yes, the subjects my dd learns and the books I encourage her to read (though to be fair, if I could find homeschool classes in plumbing and auto repair I would go for it.)

I know that because my daughter talks, and dresses, and behaves in certain ways she is more likely to successful. And that just seems odd.

Guess I'm just dreaming of a world where there was no class system or status, and wondering how this would effect the choices I make.

Link to "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior":
(Note: I disagree with the author on virtually every point.)

pony mom
3-24-11, 8:56pm
It always seemed to me that in England, you're born into your class. In the US, people try to buy it. Old money is classier than new money. In the UK some of the most upper-class families are broke trying to keep the family castles and estates running. IMO, some of the people with the most expensive homes, designer clothes and luxurious cars are trying to look the part, but are as common as mud. They ain't got no class, but they'll try to buy it if they can. Insecurity?

There was a Woody Allen movie several years ago where Tracy Ullman received a lot of money and hired Hugh Grant to sort of teach her 'class'. She was just as common with or without money.

3-24-11, 10:22pm
I'm not an anthropologist (except--like Temple Grandin--on Mars) but I think class is pretty solidly ingrained in most cultures.

I enjoyed Paul Fussell's Class as well, especially the part where he tried to dodge his obviously middle-class status by claiming some people are so clever they're beyond such crassifications (I just made that up)--a group he himself is part of. I guess that would be the "creative class" you speak of.

iris lily
3-24-11, 11:00pm
I love those class markers in the UK because they are so foreign. Whole rituals around tea isn't something I can relate to other than as something foreigners, Japanese and English, do and aren't they funny!

I grew up in the middle of everything where there really was very little class distinction: in the middle of the country (Iowa) in the middle of the century in the middle class. I knew of only one family that sent their children to private school and it was for the religious aspect. There was only one private high school in the entire county, and it was that Catholic one. Some schools were considered somewhat better than others but they were all public schools.

That was at a time where Iowa schools were tops in the country.

Some areas WERE poorer than others, but I didn't know anyone rich. We had kids in our school who were poor, but no rich ones. In my cousin's school in the big city where all of the rich people went they still were in public schools.

I suppose class is more important on the East cost and in some ways in the South, although that's more about manners and family.

3-25-11, 5:49am
^ I'm not really sure where people get the idea that tea is something central to British people's lives and plays some kind of pivotal role. Perhaps upper class ladies are always seen drinking it in those BBC period dramas? When I lived in Spain, people would seriously ask me if everything stopped at 5pm so we could drink tea. What on Earth...?

There are so many interdependent factors that affect social class in the UK. I don't think financial affluence or poverty (and everything in between) are necessarily the main determinants. I'm more inclined to believe that attitudes, values, expectations, etc have more of an influence, as well as the sort of environment and people a person grows up around. These might be affected by money though, of course. For example, I come from a "middle class" family (my parents come from both "working class" and "middle class" backgrounds), but my partner and I earn very little money, yet we have what would be called here "middle class" values, interests, preoccupations...

The BBC is currently doing some research into the social class makeup of the UK, and I recently took their online survey (http://www.bbc.co.uk/labuk/articles/class/) (If you're outside the UK, perhaps don't take it! You wouldn't want to skew their results, hehe. I don't think having a poorly publicised survey on the BBC news website is really going to attract enough of a variety of people to get results that accurately reflect the make-up of UK society though, but hey, that's their researchers' problem, not mine). While doing the survey, it was very obvious what many of the questions were getting at, making a somewhat stereotypical, clear-cut distinction between the UK 'middle' and 'working' classes. They asked about the type of music you listened to (techno or rock?), the kinds of hobbies you had (going to bingo or to the cinema?), your level of education, your employment, your outlook on life (are events in your life determined by luck or hard work?), your parents' occupations, vacation destinations/methods (do you go to a travel agent or book independently?), the breadth of your own social circle... can you see the distinction between the options and what they represent? If you know someone who listens to techno, goes to bingo regularly, has no qualifications, thinks they are "unlucky" in life, works as a shop assistant, then the general consensus would be that this is a "working class" person by UK standards.

Having grown up in an American environment and then moving to Scotland at 16, I found the division in "class" in the UK to be rather daunting. In the US - from my perspective anyway - things seem much more blended. In my high school in Scotland, you could easily pick out the "working class" kids vs the "middle class" ones, whereas at my American school, everyone just seemed to be the same in that respect. It is a strange situation. I remember one time a drunk guy in his 20s came and sat next to me on the train one evening (great). He said I must be "posh" because I was wearing a long-line woolen coat and a big scarf. I took a little offence because "posh" also equates to "snobby" to me... Apparently to look "normal" in the middle of winter, you have to be wearing a miniskirt and bucket loads of fake tan for warmth. It's an odd world.

iris lily
3-25-11, 9:13am
^ I'm not really sure where people get the idea that tea is something central to British people's lives and plays some kind of pivotal role. Perhaps upper class ladies are always seen drinking it in those BBC period dramas? When I lived in Spain, people would seriously ask me if everything stopped at 5pm so we could drink tea. What on Earth...?

Well, Ishbel for one said that "milk first" is a class indicator. I didn't make it up! Here in the States that's just hard to fathom. I don't even know which way that points you, up or down in the class schema, but I'd guess: down. The logic being: pour the tea first as the main activity is tea, then add only enough milk that is needed--that would be a refined person. An unrefined person would just plop milk in the cup with no discernment in evaluating the tea to see exactly how much is needed. Did I get that right?

3-25-11, 10:01am
^ Hehehe, I really have no idea; I've never thought about that. I don't drink tea myself, but when I make it for others, I go "milk first", so I must be a bit rough around the edges ;)

3-25-11, 10:12am
It's often in those subtle details that people trying to fake it give themselves away. My neighbor across the street told me she grew up really poor, but she tries to portray herself as upper middle class. She makes sure that you'll notice the designer appliances in her kitchen, and the designer labels on her children, but she misses the less obvious things that a woman "of her standing" would do. Even one of the woman who she hangs with the most, said to her that she was trying too hard because she didn't feel she was enough (why the neighbor repeated this to me I do not know). Its all about the appearances, not the substance.

Buying things normally used by the class above you doesn't necessary make you move up a class, but our culture's persistent marketing of products would have you believe otherwise. If you buy this status <product>, others will think you are wealthy and envy you.

3-25-11, 11:07am
I think too many people confuse class and breeding. Money has little to do with it IMHO.

3-25-11, 1:15pm
^ Hehehe, I really have no idea; I've never thought about that. I don't drink tea myself, but when I make it for others, I go "milk first", so I must be a bit rough around the edges ;)

Ahhhaaaaa - you have outed yourself! My Mum always insisted on putting the milk in AFTER the tea had been poured from the pot. That's how I was taught to do it! I don't look down on those who do the reverse, though! I mean, 'some of my best friends' and all that.....!!!!!

3-25-11, 2:01pm
Notions of class and breeding always remind me of a story about NYC's legendary mayor, Fiorello LaGuardia.
Born in NYC to working class immigrants of Italian Christian/Hungarian Jewish decent, he was elected to the US congress in the years just before WWI.
In that Patrician Paradise he was the notorious 'un-wasp' and much despised. So much so, that in order to purify their ranks the congress were told to write an essay on their heritage , family history and blood lines...hoping to embarrass and eliminate LaGuardia as not suitable for office.
He wrote instead a hilarious account about his dog, a creature of wonderful doggie bloodlines and breeding. He talked about his intellect and all the wonderful things the dog did. However he ended with the statement thatt despite the dogs impeccable heritage "in the end he really was just a son of a bitch"...which truly as a dog he was.
The purifucation effort failed and La guardia served several terms in the congress.
Let's hear it for class and breeding NY style!!!

3-25-11, 2:27pm
I care neither about class nor breeding. I care about money, because of what it buys. Yea this is life in Cali ;) And even money I often question the price at which it comes. Because what I really really care about isn't even money, it's intangibles (but at least money I have to admit is useful :))

3-25-11, 2:30pm
This is an interesting discussion. I have always been slightly bewildered by people who complain about social class disctinctions in the US, but I have come to believe that this is because I am a Calfornia native. Now, I am not at all saying that California is immune (or better), just that it's such a "new" place compared to the eastern and southern parts of the US, so how long one's family has lived here and who our ancestors were is removed from the social class discussion by default. Out in the west, we expect to meet, live next door to, work with, work for, go to school with, teach, buy from, sell to, and volunteer with immigrants and 1st and 2nd generation Americans.

Like Gardinarian said above, "I live in San Francisco now, and there are status battles - who is the greenest? who knows the coolest celebrities? who has the latest gadget?" These issues certainly exist here, but I really don't think they actually keep anyone from getting a job they want, attending an interesting event, getting into the desired school, or any other factor that class disctinctions might constrain in other parts of the country.


3-26-11, 4:22am

I enjoyed that book. I was raised by farmers with grade 12 and one year of college as the extent of their education, and who were poor in starting out and wealthy at the end, but continued to live very conservatively throughout. I ended up with an MBA, and I can identify with the thoughts of the author of this book. my background has a big impact on my career, sometimes its a benefit and sometimes its a barrier. interesting stuff ..... I enjoy this type of topic.

3-26-11, 10:04am
I have now lived on the East Coast, in the Pacific NW, and in Texas and because of my profession run into people who would fall at the top of the class structure. The way the class indicators vary by region fascinate me. In the mid-Atlantic, it was about family and ancestry, and what you might own (antiques, art, property) that had been handed down in the family--names were really, really important...perhaps equally so to money. In the PNW, my brother used to joke that you had to look at the shoes and technology to pick out the wealthiest...everyone wore fleece, dressed casually at restaurants, etc. But they were extraordinarily picky about where they lived--beautiful views, nice neighborhoods, didn't want to be near commercial districts, shopping malls, etc. In Texas, indicators like expensive jewelry, luxury cars, large houses (probably designer clothes too, although I'm not good with that) are important, but you might live in a million dollar house a quarter-mile from a big box store or a gas station and not give a care. Really expensive restaurants don't look that different from the outside from the modest ones (you can find both in strip malls). There is also a definite expectation of a friendly, "down-home" attitude--you may be walking around in $50,000 worth of jewelry, but you still eat BBQ and hamburgers.

Miss Cellane
3-26-11, 12:12pm
ANM - this is just what I was thinking about. When I lived in Boston the social climbing was way more obvious than out here on the West coast - I had friends who had fake British accents, EVERYONE in my mom's neighborhood drove a Volvo (with a public radio bumper sticker,) people on the 'T' would flaunt their intellectual books. Yuck.

Gardenarian, I can assure you that at least some of those T riders with the intellectual books are grad students who have no other time to get their reading done.

What I find interesting about Boston social systems is the variety. There's the academic world, due to all the colleges and universities in the Boston/Cambridge area. Where you teach, what you teach, where you went to school, even what degrees your spouse/SO might have, all come into play. Then there's the business world. And the political world, with the State House right in the center of town. And the student world. And then just the plain, ordinary folk who muddle on through. It's interesting how little the various groups interact, except someplace like public transportation. Hey, we even had a governor who took the T to work.

I've noticed a little dance that goes on when two people from two different groups meet. There's subtle questioning about where you live, what you do, etc., in an attempt to place the other person. I come to things from the academic/non-profit world; one of my brothers is a big-wig partner in a big-wig law firm. It's kind of fun to go to his parties where his co-workers are present and get interrogated by them. It's even more fun to give correct, but deliberately worded so as to be misleading answers to their questions. I just hate the idea of being pinned up and neatly labeled and categorized. I'm so much more interesting than any class label they can pin on me. :~)

Both my parents were born in Boston in the 1920s; both partly of Irish descent. I know a lot of things their families did when they were kids were done specifically to offset the negative stereotype of the Irish that still persisted in the area. They both went to dancing school (they met at the dancing school, actually). They were sent to the "right" schools--Mom to a private Catholic girls' school and Dad to Boston Latin. Their parents had pretty high expectations--college at least, a graduate degree would not be a surprise. They were both held to a pretty high standard of behavior.

When I was about 8, I learned about classes and I asked my mom which class we were in. Her answer was that due to Dad's occupation (he was in the military), Mom liked to think of us as classless--we weren't tied to any set of rules or stipulations about class. Our family wasn't labeled. But we were always to act as though every person we met was just as important as we were.

Contrary to the way a lot of military families dealt with the whole officer/enlisted personnel issue, we were taught that *everyone* regardless of their rank or their parent's/spouse's rank was to be treated politely at all times. There are horror stories out there about officers' kids, but we were not allowed to behave like that. Actually, it never would have occurred to me to treat a schoolmate differently because her father was of a lower or higher rank than my father. I made it to 5th grade before another student questioned why I was best friends with the daughter of an enlisted man. I had to check with my parents that night and they told me the other girl was wrong and I could be friends with whomever I wanted to be.

3-26-11, 2:40pm
I grew up pretty middle class, but in an affluent area, and when I was very young, was thrust into the world of the very, very wealthy, both old and new money, as my husband became a very well known horse trainer and judge, and our clients were drawn from folks with lots and lots of money. As he was something of a celebrity in that world, we were socially accepted there, in a way that a well known interior designer, or clothing designer might be, and often the wealthy wanted to be seen with US, rather than what might be the more usual "other way around". So it was a strange existence, but one that allowed for interesting observation, for sure.

It made me a really interested observer of class, and I've remained so all my life, although my life is very different now, and over my lifetime, have spent time in everything from that rarified atmosphere, to living nomadically in places where most of the people around me were really the "vehicularly housed homeless", as opposed to just "RVers".

I'm an introvert, but I find people fascinating.....how they are, why they act the way they do, what the subtle distinctions are that allow you to see someone coming toward you and be able almost flawlessly know if they are European or American, distinguish Canadians from Americans pretty easily most of the time in just a few minutes, and to see the huge number of very subtle ways people both demonstrate their own social class and try to ascertain yours with probing questions. I find various cultures endlessly fascinating as well, and am constantly amazed at how we human animals find so many ways to ascertain our perceived positions in "society", and how different the yardsticks are in various classes and cultures.

For myself, I'm not all that particular about "class", but I do find myself being particular about intelligence, curiosity and openness to ideas, etc., in people I spend time with. I'm as prone to enjoy the company and friendship of a homeless person of uncertain mental stability who is intelligent and original in his thinking (and do), and pass up others of position and wealth, but without that curiosity of mind and intellectual interests, or abilities to create or build things, that I appreciate above all else. A person can be "unlearned" in the sense of poor grammar or living situation, but if that person is "alive" in mind, or creative and talented, I appreciate them far more than I might someone far above them in social class, but perhaps dull intellectually or in interests.

So....I think I'm a snob, but it's more of an intellectual snob, than a money snob. I can handle whether or not people have or don't have money, did or did not go to college, did or did not have families of any distinction, or own or don't own "stuff". I reserve my prejudices for ignorance......and not really "ignorance" itself, as all of us are ignorant on some things.....what I really mind, and look down on in people is "deliberate ignorance", that "I'm ignorant and proud of it" attitude of disdain for intellectual accomplishment that somehow seems to be prevalent in some areas of society. And what I find that I admire in people is intelligence, curiosity, original even if eccentric thinking and a quality of being themselves and unfettered by "how it is supposed to be". I have a lot of that in myself, although I "pass" quite well as a middle class person...only I know how truly eccentric I really am, hahahahaha......

But, even the folks I don't enjoy spending time with, I enjoy dissecting......and I hope that I give people plenty of interest in dissecting me as well. I'm willing to take my place in the parade, as either "looker" or "lookee". Because human beings are of intense interest to me and always have been. And exploring the ins and outs and subtle difference of social class, in various areas and in various cultures has been a lifelong preoccupation and interest that has never flagged.

3-26-11, 2:53pm
I grew up in the (US) military, and there was an interesting class division between officers' children and NCOs' children. It was subtle because we were all together in a sense - we lived on the same base with the same levels of safety and security. We all had our basic needs met, no one going to bed hungry or fighting their way through gangs to get to school. The only difference was that officers had more money and education. They lived on one side of a street in base housing; we lived on the other. I think it's possible that the subtlety makes it more confusing. Growing up, I knew there was a difference; I just couldn't figure out what it was. Now that I have made contact with some of my old acquaintances from my childhood, I can see a difference even in their behavior on Facebook.

The officers' adult kids are more intellectually curious, more private about their emotions, more accepting of differences of opinions. The NCOs' adult kids are coarser, more "out there" with their emotions, quicker to take offense, and seem to be surviving from day to day. Oddly enough, the NCOs' children who spent time overseas seem to behave like the officers' children.

4-10-11, 7:38pm
I grew up in a mixed-bag classwise, too complicated to describe but coming out generally with middle class values and ways of living through the day, though now more working class due to friends and partners and work and housing choices. I've had two major relationships, both with people from working class backgrounds and I understand them and other people and also wealthy people much better from having read Crossing the Tracks for Love . It has allowed me to misunderstand my own and their values and habits as class-determined, not just individual preferences--where I would feel a confusing clash.

4-10-11, 11:08pm
Ahh, social class in America. You mean we're not all some sort of big melting pot of middleclassdom?

When DH (who comes from very modest means) and I (grew up middle class but typical Southerner with all the "family history") were getting married and planning a ceremony on the beach, the wedding planner was talking about all sorts of themey ideas to add on at the beach. One of them was doing taking some sand in our silver baby cups and filling up a vase or something. DH was clueless...what's a baby cup? I was just as clueless, "who doesn't have a baby cup?" So, in the moment of the wedding stress about some idea I didn't even really care about, I had a bit of a breakdown about the baby cup, but it was more of a moment of uneasiness about where does this person I am going to spend my life with, come from? Even now, DH and I definitely have different expectations and perspectives from growing up very differently, but generally we agree about core values. After that incident I never even bothered to ask DH what his Mother's silver pattern was, heh.

4-11-11, 12:21am
After that incident I never even bothered to ask DH what his Mother's silver pattern was, heh.


My father-in-law is a Harvard man. His family was on the Mayflower. He has specific fish forks for species of fish that are now extinct. You know the type.

I do not share with him my grandmother's special family recipe for squirrel burgoo, though who knows, he might have just the right spoon for that. :-)