Nancy Leson grew up with plain old paper napkins, but planned for a more elegant wipe while still a teen. These days, she mops her mug at every meal with linen napkins. When not on duty, those napkins nestle in their own rings, engraved Madame or Monsieur.
She recalls, "I saw that my high school sweetheart's family each had their own napkin ring. I swore that when I had my own home I would use linen napkins. And if you think of linen napkins as something fancy-schmance – don't. You can go to yard sales and thrift shops and get great linen napkins for cheap."
"True," I told her, "but they're not very absorbent and you have to wash them."
"So what do you use, Stein?"
"Kitchen sponges," I told her. They're more absorbent than linen. Get 'em damp, add a few few drops of lemon juice and they're like big, yellow moist towelettes. And that green scrubbie on the other side? Perfect for scouring the sticky bits off my mustache. Just rinse and squeeze. No paper wasted; no laundering. It's SO obvious.
Nancy's love of linen doesn't stop with dinner napkins. She also has cocktail napkins, inherited from her mother-in-law.
"If she could see me using her beautiful little pastel colored cocktail napkins every time I have company I think she'd clink a champagne glass up in heaven," said Nance, "or wherever she is."
What about dish towels? Nancy has some she likes so much she doesn't want them stained. So for spills or wiping something from the floor she saves her good towels and uses "terry washcloths I buy at Costco for like 12 bucks for 20 or 25. I use a lot fewer paper towels." Great idea.
Of course, I was just kidding about using sponges for napkins but now that I think about it, it actually seems like a pretty good idea. And there's historical precedent. The ancient Romans used them too, though not for wiping their lips.
"Professor Butts walks in his sleep, strolls through a cactus field in his bare feet, and screams out an idea for a self-operating napkin." – Rube Goldberg, Inventions