I’ve noticed recently that most people my age seem to use paper towels as napkins. I don’t know if it is one of my more anachronistic personality traits, but I ALWAYS use paper napkins for eating and mostly only use paper towels for Windexing my windows/mirrors or cleaning up cat vomit.
As with most things, my loyalty to paper napkins is because that’s simply what I grew up with. My family ate dinner together, at the dinner table, every single night growing up, even in high school. And that table was always set before the food was put down, with a folded paper napkin, a fork on top and a knife to the side, wine glasses for the adults and milk glasses for the children. The napkins were unfolded and placed on laps and then grace was said (I came up with a secular grace sometime around early high school for when it was my turn), and then everyone began to eat. Somehow, paper towels don’t fit into this narrative as well, they curl instead of fold and don’t want to lie flat.
To this day, I put a paper napkin on my lap when eating, even at my work desk. There’s something about making the effort to use an official napkin that adds a certain ritual element to eating, rather than a “towel” which you might also use to clean your toilet.
There’s the economic factor as well. A Bounty Basic paper towel (for example) is $7 for a pack of 8. That’s 87 cents per roll. And at 40 sheets per roll that’s 2 cents per sheet. By contrast, a 500 napkin pack of Mardi Gras napkins is $6.59 or 1 cent per napkin. Half the price of paper towels! Also, that 8-pack of paper towels only gives you 320 paper towels and an 8 pack of paper towels is considerably more bulky to carry home and store than a 500 pack of napkins.
So the next time you are stocking up on paper goods, consider the humble paper napkin and see if it doesn’t make your mealtimes and wallet feel better. For a more advanced option, try cloth napkins which will REALLY make you feel fancy.