Ahem. One thing that Aunt Toby really hates is going out to what is considered ‘fine dining’ (which I realize is stretching things where your dear Aunty lives but the point is made), and some of the details are off.
The food is exquisite. The wine list divine. The wait staff attentive. The bathrooms artistic.
And paper napkins.
Ayyyyyyyy! It makes me want to stick a fork in my eye. Attention to detail after detail after detail – and paper napkins. They might even have white linen on the tables (usually under a piece of glass, which I also hate – what do they think I’m going to do – write my name on it?), but no cloth napkins. The wait staff might even have one over their arms or use one to help open the bottle of wine.
But no napkins for you!!!
I tell you, it puts my digestion completely out.
I like cloth napkins a lot. I think they add a tremendous amount to the enjoyment of a meal and makes it special, an occasion. I think even eating take-out pizza on a china plate with a cloth napkin upgrades the entire deal. Paper napkins are blech-y. They are also usually not…big…enough and not..heavy…enough. So you end up with this little scrap of something approaching toilet paper on your lap, which covers nothing and absorbs nothing and if you bite into that nice hot egg roll and things start slurping out the nether end, your lap is not going to be happy with you.
Enter, stage left: Cloth Napkins For All.
Now, this project came about because our son is moving (yes, thank you; we are very happy for him) and to encourage him to upgrade his living arrangements, I hunted up one of my Mama’s linen tablecloths. I inherited a whole box of table linens from her and it is filled with such arcane items as embroidered cocktail napkins, embroidered tray liners, and a couple of items the names of which escape me but which are meant to be put into a bowl or basket to wrap around hot rolls. Very spiffy. Now, many of the tablecloths came with their matching napkins but some of the more casual ones did not. There was a nice green one that had no matching napkins and rather than allow my son to go ‘napkin-less’, I took the table cloth to the fabric store and looked for some fabric which would coordinate.
Now, our son is not going to be hosting any formal ‘sit down dinners for 12″ or anything like that; more likely, he will invite a bunch of his workmates over for take out pizza or barbequed chicken and everyone will want to take their food and their drinks and sit around on the floor talking and eating.
But cloth napkins have their place at picnics as well.
I found a nifty piece of woven plaid which had one of the colors matching the green of the table cloth and I bought three yards. The fabric was 44″ wide and I like to go with this in a very ‘as little waste as possible’, so I split it down the middle the long way, and made squares. I then ironed down 1/2″ hems and then ironed them down again and then I ran six of them through the machine (the other four will wait for another day). The whole operation, from measuring, cutting, ironing and sewing around the hems took one hour.
Now, yes, I realize that these are really big napkins – even with the hemming, they are 20″ across, which is definitely enough to protect the lap of anyone I’ve ever met.
So, I would like to suggest to anyone who’s looking at gifts for a wedding or a shower or someone moving to a new apartment or getting a new job and moving to a new place or even just a gift for yourself: Make a whole mess of cloth napkins. I like woven plaids and stripes because they are jolly and look the same on both sides. If you want to go the more traditional route, you can find lovely linens in shops or on the internet. If you want to go the recycling route, you can investigate Goodwill or Salvation Army, charity shops, or even haunt estate sales and get plain ones which you can dress up with ribbon or embroidery. If nothing else, if it’s a gift for someone under the age of about 40, it will be something they would never think to buy for themselves and believe it or not, they are something that once used, will be used again and again and again.
Linens. Dress up your meals. You deserve it.