Way before Martha Stewart made us all feel bad about ourselves for using paper towels as napkins, regular folks would use cloth napkins at every meal. Using an actual piece of fabric to wipe the vinaigrette from your chin had an obvious downside: eventually it had to be laundered, folded and maybe even ironed before it could be put back into service.
Score one for paper towels. Yeah, they’re easy and always available when you need them, but they’re also super wasteful and use up a lot of resources (namely trees) to make.
So, back to cloth napkins! But how to avoid endlessly washing and folding said napkins after each use?
Napkin rings, that’s how!
Today, napkin rings have been elevated to the status of tabletop bling, mostly reserved as a decorative item at dinner parties and special occasions. But that’s not where they started, oh no.
The actual point of napkin rings was to hold a (used) napkin for the exclusive use of the same dinner on multiple occasions until it was ready to be laundered again. Sometimes for as long as a week. That’s why they were plain silver and always engraved with the diner’s initials to keep them separate.
I know, to the uninitiated it sounds pretty gross to keep a used napkin in a drawer to use all week, but really, if you know how to use a knife and fork, it shouldn’t be all that dirty.
Having said that, I freely admit that when we are eating something saucy/messy and hands on (BBQ ribs come to mind) I opt for a paper napkin. But…as a rule, I don’t like to use them because it does encourage sloppy use of cutlery (there really shouldn’t be any vinaigrette on your chin) and I really hate the waste of it all.
I want to encourage you to swap out your paper napkins for real ones this year. You can find a cotton or linen napkin to suit any budget and likewise, you can find engravable napkin rings at any price-point. And don’t feel like you have to match them! Way back in the day, they were given as christening gifts with the assumption that he or she would use it for life.
We love having our own napkin rings. They’re an easy life upgrade and will make everyday dinners feel that little bit nicer. And who doesn’t love that?