The Napkin Controversy

It started years ago with a visit to Jim’s cousin in Texas. Gordon always used a cloth napkin at meals.

“It’s the civilized thing to do,” he said. But to save on the wash, if the cloth wasn’t soiled, he would tie it to the ladder-back chair to use for another meal.

Now, my family is occasionally civilized. I have cloth napkins that match some yellow placemats. But these napkins are made of a fabric that demands to be ironed or there would be nothing civilized about them on the table.

This may come as a surprise to some of you, but I don’t like ironing. I still do it because of Jim’s white cotton shirts, but now that his days at the office are a memory, there are fewer times when I’m required to lift the heavy ironing board from the closet, listen to its awful screech when I open it, and fire up the iron.

So, we use those yellow napkins about twice a year.

A day after we returned from the Texas trip, our son Morgan, known for his dry wit even as a youngster, got up from the dinner table and with great ceremony tied his paper napkin to the back of his chair. IMG_0032-2

I was reminded of this incident recently at Wednesday lunch with writers I’ve met with on Wednesdays for nearly three decades. We currently meet at a gourmet hot dog place, and can you believe it, the place uses cloth napkins.

These napkins don’t match. They are multi-colored, different patterned, and they don’t require ironing. They feel like soft sheets. I think it’s wonderful to use cloth napkins. Actually, it’s the civilized thing to do. (If I said that out loud, I’d have to hold out my little finger as I always thought high society dames did when they lifted a delicate teacup.)

The other writers, not being as civilized as I am ;), threw out reasons why they preferred paper napkins. Lipstick stains came up, as if any of us wear lipstick after the first bite or two. Also quite a discussion was held on the economic and ecological merits of paper and cloth with the cost of washing and drying cloth napkins being a factor. Our debate did not result in a clear winner.

Still, I prefer cloth napkins. Just not my yellow ones.

And you?