Pulp Magic

JULY 9, 2014

Paper Sets the Tone

Following my visit to the 100-year-old RockTenn facility in West Point, Virginia, I made my way to the Northern Neck of Virginia and a tiny “tasting” restaurant for the Rappahannock Oyster Company called Merroir.

The dining room, sitting on the banks of the Locklies Creek surrounded by white sand and marsh grass and cooled by a fresh breeze, is utterly charming.  But it’s more than just a restaurant. Merroir farms its own oysters in the nearby waters and has a special tasting room where you can sample small plates of the most delicious oysters.

But something besides shellfish caught my eye.


While customers were savoring Chesapeake oysters on a beautiful spring Saturday, I was enjoying the hand-stamped menu printed on kraft paper that complemented the understated location, tasting menu and craft beer of this near-hidden gem of a restaurant. It didn’t matter what kind of sauces, lemon or oil got on these menus… the earthy texture and unfussiness of the paper was the perfect backdrop for the simple menu and outdoor environment. It’s remarkable how paper can delight the senses.  Its tactile qualities, its folds and creases, the sounds it makes, even its smell — all combine to express the care, craftsmanship, and intelligence of the maker.

You simply cannot achieve that deep connection with an e-mail message.

There’s something timeless and human about paper that communicates more than the words written on it.  And while progress marches on, I’m happy that sometimes it marches in a warm and familiar direction.