Growing up in Calgary my best memories of cloth napkins were at the regular Sunday night dinners with my three sisters. Started by our parents, these dinners were cooking contests and always included friends and/or boyfriends.
Cloth Napkins Promote Style and Utility
The dining room was always set with our best, but it wasn’t English china. Our best was earthenware dishes, sterling silver cutlery and cloth napkins. My mother and Nanny Jem believed in three things. 1. Buy the best you can afford. 2. Buy things that will endure in style and utility. 3. Use these things as often as possible. This included at my parent’s table assorted serving pieces from travels to Portugal and Venezuela and things inherited along with lots of candles.
Our creative and competitive cooking, the yummy eats and lively discussion became the stuff of neighbourhood legends. Everyone wanted an invite. Usually after a couple of beers, whatever was bound to start a debate was the subject my father would thrust into the conversation. It took us years to notice that while our Dad cooked, he never actually entered the debates himself. He just sat back with a smile and watched the brouhaha unfold.
Our mother didn’t cook either, preferring to tackle any leftover dishes in solitude the next day. Come to think of it, I don’t remember her debating either. Now as a parent, I can imagine her pleasure of having a rare night off from cooking and just hanging with her teenage girl and their friends.
The Culture of Gratitude
Along the way, I’ve learned to respect that dining with others usually means paper towels, paper napkins or sometimes no napkin at all. It was good practice and when it came time to feather my nest, our gift registry included silver cutlery [even just one piece] and cloth napkins. My love of cloth napkins is part of what I call the Culture of Gratitude. Paraphrasing William Morris who stated have nothing in your home that is not practical or beautiful.
Appreciating the colour, weight and feel of the cloth. That it’s multiple uses promotes enduring values and slow living. Finally, it’s being mindful about the three R’s [reduce, reuse and recycle]. Mindful because washing and drying is just another kind of waste. Don’t make the mistake of exchanging one bad thing for another.
The Culture of Gratitude is a thoughtful, active and shared process of choice. I’ve tried to share this with our three children and now with a young granddaughter. So far, they’ve carried on the banner!
Cloth Napkin Recommendations
Cloth napkins for everyday should be a fabric blend that can be folded right from a warm dryer. It might take a while to find a napkin which is not perfect, but perfectly acceptable. Some of my napkins have come from Pier One.
Cloth napkins for special moments can be your guilty pleasure. While traveling in South West France with my son, I bought colourful striped canvas napkins and table linens designed and woven by design house Artiga. My friend Evelyn Dufau, who arranged the trip for me, now offers the same linens for sale in her store, Maison Basque. They are just so gorgeous, but I confess these napkins look best ironed.
If even the smallest stain drives you crazy, however, consider patterned napkins. My granddaughter and I are in love with Funkins. She even takes them to school for lunch. A local company, Funkins napkins are supposed to be for kids, but I’m in love the crazy Halloween patterns they offered last year.
Even after thirty-five years of shopping, instead of shoes, all us girls still prefer to spend our money on good bed, kitchen, bath and table linens. Ultimately using cloth napkins takes less work than you think, with only pleasure and satisfaction to be found.