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Thoughts from an Epicure: Napkins – paper or cloth?

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Growing up in the 1930s and ’40s, I don’t remember our family using napkins. We did when eating at my aunt’s for holiday meals. And, they were cloth. When I married in the early 1950s, we used cloth napkins. After the 1955 flood, we moved to Lambertville, where I lived until the early 1970s.

At that time, the Lambertville House was a restaurant I enjoyed. They had a great chef’s salad and homemade bread. But our favorite eatery was in a private home turned restaurant called Phil and Dan’s. What the place lacked in atmosphere was made up for with excellent Italian food.

We and friends went often. Since it was BYOB, I’d take a jug of Paisano table wine. We’d eat, drink and laugh for what seemed like hours. My one complaint was they used paper napkins. I solved that by taking my own cloth one. More than once, we’d leave without it. The next day, I’d call and tell them I left it there and was told they’d set it aside for me until our next visit. Although every item on their menu was delicious, I think my favorite was their veal and peppers with the best tomato sauce I ever have had, both before and since.

To this day, I much prefer cloth napkins, although there are times and events that are better suited to paper, which I recognize and accept. We have a friend who always used paper towels as napkins. I generally took a cloth one. At a birthday dinner for me, at my place, she had an antique silver napkin ring, with a paper towel in it! To this day, I still use that lovely ring.

Ernest Hemingway once said, “Wine is the most civilized thing in the world.” I would add to that, “Wine and cloth napkins are the most civilized things in the world.”

Enjoy and be safe!

If you have suggestions or questions for this column, please contact me directly at guthrielarason@verizon.net.


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