Napkins started out as just another piece of food. Some soft dough was provided for wiping the fingers. It was the Romans who first came up with napkins like some that we are familiar with today. They had two different sizes. A smaller one that was usually used to wipe the nose (today we call that a handkerchief), and a larger one that was used while reclining at the table. It was even used to wrap up one’s leftovers.
Things got weird during the middle ages. People stopped caring about decorum and would wipe their hands or face on a piece of leftover bread. Then tableware was invented, and people just thought that napkins would never be used again since no one’s hands touched the food anyway.
Happily, the fabric napkin survived and saw a resurgence, only to run into a new enemy. In the late 1800s, paper napkins appeared for the first time. They invaded everywhere from homes to restaurants. But there are some major issues between paper napkins and sustainability.
Paper napkins are rarely recyclable. Sometimes they are even made from recycled material. However, only a small portion of recycled materials is safe for napkins due to contamination from things like pizza boxes that have had oil seep into them.
The ultimate solution is the one that dates all the way back to Rome. Fabric napkins are classy. They are good for the environment because they are reusable. High-quality napkins will look good wash after wash and will hold their shape when folded into all sorts of interesting designs.