Paper or CLOTH?

“Aunt Lisa?” one of my siblings’ children asked, “Have you always used cloth napkins?” during dinner at my home. It made me not only consider when I started using cloth napkins, but why.

Growing up one of eight children, we certainly did NOT use cloth napkins (ever) for meals. We were lucky to have a portion of a paper towel or a rare paper napkin at meal time. Best advice was, “Don’t miss your mouth with your fork!” But, mealtime, in particular dinner, was always special. Most of us were present, Mom was a good cook and it was a chance to share our daily events with a captive audience. My spouse’s dinner experience wasn’t quite as predictable. He had a working single mother, a nanny who taught him how to cook and two siblings going in different directions. “Grab-n-go” meals were the norm.

In our society, many of our monumental events – holidays, birthdays, graduations, promotions, retirements, engagements, weddings, anniversaries – are crowned with food, a special meal or dessert. We use decorated napkins, special occasion plates, centerpieces, and candles to elevate the food and drink to the level of the occasion. The tableware doesn’t necessarily make the food taste any better (however, glassware DOES make a difference in wine, beer and anything carbonated – that’s another article.) What the table setting and environment does do is elevate our mood. Food at fine restaurants is generally served on nice dishes with a cloth napkin for the same reason.

My husband and I started using cloth napkins after we married. With me in residency training and him driving truck, our schedules conflicted. We realized the opportunity to sit and enjoy a meal as a family (my husband, our son and me), regardless of what was on the menu, was truly a special occasion.

I have cloth napkins in most colors and many textures and enjoy matching them with dinnerware or even what is being served. It does add a little to the laundry pile, but hardly noticeable. As time went on and our son moved away, we continued to use cloth napkins, even for take-out pizza on disposable plates. Again, it reminded us how fortunate we are to have the meal and the company to share the meal. When my husband died, I continued to use cloth napkins. When I eat alone now, I will occasionally light a candle and always have fresh flowers on the table or in the kitchen.

Using cloth napkins has been a way I use to introduce some specialness, or as my nieces and nephews call “fanciness” to a seemingly every day activity. Pull out the china, fold the cloth napkins, light the candle or add a couple of fresh flowers. See what it does to your mood!

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Comments on "Paper or CLOTH?"

Comments 0-5 of 2

Joan Grzybowski - Sunday, April 25, 2021

Retro has returned over and over , giving each generation a taste of the past mixed with their new twist to it. Lisa's article made me think of happy memories of those no longer with us but also of joys yet to come with those we hold close and with those new family generations we will someday meet. I will use a cloth napkin... Joan Grzybowski DO

John Fornace - Saturday, April 24, 2021

I enjoyed this high-quality article, particularly also being one of eight children (with an osteopathic physician as a father). I would add one point to cloth napkins by adding to your sentence: "What the table setting and environment does do is elevate our mood, and also what your mood and table setting does is elevate the effect on our environment."

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