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Saturday, 13 August 2016


As man's hands carry food from plate to mouth his causes the hands to become greasy and dirty. Thus, washing and drying them after the meal, and still at the table, became a custom in the Roman Empire. It was for this purpose as well as the mopping the forehead and face that the napkin was introduced.

After a Roman dinner party, the napkin served as a "doggy bag" for the small gifts of food or wine, which the host might give to his guests on their departure.

The use of paper napkins is documented in ancient China, where paper was invented in the 2nd century BC.

The words "apron" and "napkin" were originally "napron" and "apkin" but the preceding indefinite articles ("an" and "a") were so confusing to the listener that the words eventually just changed.

During a sixteenth century banquet, Western European aristocrats often used napkins, rather than the tablecloth, to protect their clothes and to wipe their hands and cutlery. The men knotted their napkins around their necks, which could be difficult to do when wearing a ruff, from which comes the saying 'making ends meet.'

As the use of the fork was gradually adopted throughout western Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the napkin was used primarily as a decoration. Hosts competed with each other in folding napkins into extravagant shapes, which were meant to appeal to the diner's aesthetic taste.

A folded napkin. By Twdk - Wikipedia Commons

The transition from cloth to paper napkins began on July 9, 1887, when the English company John Dickinson Stationary used paper napkins at a company party.

Servers at Nikola Tesla's favorite restaurants knew that he always required a stack of exactly 18 napkins at his table.

Source Food For Thought by Ed Pearce

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