This is posh, I thought. Having just arrived from Singapore I was more used to whipping out a tiny plastic packet of cheap paper tissue instead. (I was not using cloth hankies at that point either.)
When I later stayed with a British family, I realised -- to my horror -- these cloth napkins are not washed after every meal as I expected. They are simply rolled up and returned to napkin rings and they are used again at the next meal.
How odd, I thought. How unhygienic, I further thought.
Until recently, our cloth napkins (wedding gifts) only came out of the drawers on special occasions. Until I recognized how unnecessary the kitchen towels, which we've been using as a substitute for table napkins, were did it occur to me that cloth napkins are NOT only for posh people or posh occasions.
My husband and I now have different coloured napkins from the Hankettes range. Son is still happy with his large old muslin nappy. (See earlier blog.)
There are charming stories on how napkins feature in the lives of ordinary people. In 'Evidence of a Good Life' Barbara McCranie notes that her "worn table napkins validate a fine lifestyle. Not just great dining but a higher level of living."
She goes on to say, "It started when my husband suggested new napkins. The dozen white cotton dinner napkins are still good and proof of thousands of dinners for two. The same old couple dabbing and wiping until their napkins are threadbare. You can’t replace that."
Perhaps you would like to read the rest of the short piece here.
But the funniest story about napkins circulating on the Internet is by an unknown author. I reproduce it in full here (only because the author is unknown):
This is more embarrassing for my mother than for me because I wasn't quite four years old when it happened. My mother taught me to read when I was three years old (her first mistake).
One day I was in the bathroom and noticed one of the cabinet door was ajar. I read the box in the cabinet. I then asked my mother why she was keeping napkins in the bathroom. Didn't they belong in the kitchen? Not wanting to burden me with unnecessary facts she told me that those were for special occasions.
Now fast forward a few months. It's Thanksgiving Day, and my folks are leaving to pick up the pastor and his wife for Dinner. Mom had assignments for all of us while they were gone.... Mine was to set the table.
You guessed it! When they returned, the pastor came in first and immediately burst into laughter. Next came his wife who gasped, then began giggling. Next came my father, who roared with laughter. Then came mom, who almost died of embarrassment when she saw each place setting on the table with a "special occasion" napkin at each plate, with the fork carefully arranged on top. I had even tucked the little tails in so they didn't hang off the edge.
My mother asked me why I used these and, of course, my response sent the other adults into further fits of laughter. "But Mom, you SAID they were for special occasions!!"
So you see, one should avoid keeping table napkins for "special occasions" only, and especially not in the bathroom cabinet!
Other 'napkin sites' that might be of interest to you:
Dispose of Your Disposables
Simply Entertaining: Napkins' purpose goes beyond decorative
Back to Organic-Ally where organic cotton table napkins are 12-15% cheaper this March.