Napkins, “Going Green”, and Manners

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In a recent post I talked about using cloth napkins versus paper napkins when we are trying to “go green” in our kitchens. By eliminating disposables we make one small mark in this vast sea of waste and consumption.

Did you know that people did not always use napkins at the table?

At one time, in very early history, people wiped their hands on pieces of bread. Later, they used handkerchiefs, or small pieces of material, to wipe their foreheads when it was hot and to blot their lips at the table. For a period of time, people just wiped their hands on anything that was available – their pants, the back of their hands, or whatever.

Later, during medieval banquets, tables were covered with many elaborate vessels for holding food. A servant would carry a towel for the lord and honored guests to use in wiping their hands.

Forks came into use in the eightenth century by all classes of society. Napkins varied in size from covering the entire front of a person to smaller sizes. Eventually napkins about the size of our present style became part of the table appointment.

Now, when we sit down at the table, the first thing we generally do is open the napkin halfway and place it on our lap. If you have to leave the table during the meal, the napkin is placed on the chair. We never put the used napkin on the table during the meal. And we never use the napkin for anything except to wipe mouth and hands. At the end of the meal, the napkin is loosely placed on the table to the left of the plate.

That’s our little napkin story for today. I hope you have a good day!

Chef Crombie

 Napkins, Going Green, and Manners
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