Way before Martha Stewart made us feel bad about 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, but they’re also super wasteful, expensive, and use up a lot of resources (namely trees and water).
So, back to cloth napkins. If you use napkin rings the way they were originally intended, they’re even more convenient than paper towels!
Just FYI: Napkin rings were originally intended to hold a (used) napkin for the exclusive use of the same diner on multiple occasions until it was ready to be laundered again. Usually for a week.
To the uninitiated, it sounds pretty gross to keep a used napkin in a drawer to use all week, but, if you know how to use a knife and fork, it should never get that dirty in the first place!
Having said that, I freely admit that when we are eating something saucy/messy and hands-on (BBQ ribs or tacos 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 silverware. There shouldn’t be any gravy or vinaigrette on your chin if you are eating like a grown-up.
I want to encourage you to swap out your paper napkins for real ones this year. They’re an easy upgrade and will make everyday dinners feel that little bit nicer. And who doesn’t love that?