Oddly, one of the memories of my dad that stands out to me the most is the way he used his napkin at dinner. He would wipe his mouth clean, fold his napkin, and then use the folded edge to really get at the corners. Then he would wipe it a few more times, and set it down in a crumpled heap next to his plate. It wasn’t an obvious practice – the whole thing took less than three seconds. But it always struck me as unnecessary, since I couldn’t see any food coming off.

Now that I’m a little older, I can see it was a hygiene ritual like all of us have – a muscle memory action to ensure he had his bases covered.

But what I’m interested in today is how my dad set his napkin down: crumpled. By crumpling it, my dad was indicating he was discarding the napkin. From there on out, the napkin was dead to him. The next time he wanted to enact his mouth-wiping ritual, he reached for a new one, never using the old one more than once or twice. This resulted in a pile of crumpled napkins on his plate by the time the meal was finished.

During a meal, do you constantly crumple up napkins and reach for new ones? Or do you save your old napkin, perhaps folding it or tucking it under your plate? Are you an environmentally-conscious napkin preserver, or an obsessive mouth and finger wiper? Basically, what’s more important – your face or the trees?* Vote below, and explain your choice in the comments.

[poll id="325"]

*Bet you never knew napkin use could be so political. See? At So Good, you learn something new every day.

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My name is Sam and all I care about is food.

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6 Responses

  1. Andrew

    The best way to use a four panel napkin (fully opened, it has four squares or panels) is this: Open the folded napkin once, so you should have a rectangle. Place the middle of the rectangle on the middle of your thigh. Which thigh is up to you, but as a right-handed person I use my right thigh. When you make a mess of your hand, put both hands with thumbs touching on the center of the napkin, then spread them apart while rubbing them along the napkin. Think about it as flattening the napkin. Voila. Using both hands will keep the napkin on your thigh as well as keep that napkin flat and ready to be used throughout your meal. Messed up your face too? Bring the napkin up off your thigh to your mouth and do your best to use the center fold of the napkin, being sure to avoid crumpling it up. If you did crumple it a little bit, no worries. Drape it over your thigh and flatten it with the motion described above.

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  2. Smokin'

    I would use cloth napkins, but is that really any better for our environment??? Think of all of the water and soap needed to wash them – plus electricity.

    I said “trees” because it makes me feel good inside, but I’ve never given it much thought. I’ll have to notice how I use my napkin(s) tonight at dinner.

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