You know those napkins that come with takeout, the ones emblazoned with the restaurant’s name and logo, providing an advertisement to account for the fact that the paper goods are ostensibly provided gratis along with the food? As if the price of the meal weren’t hiked up to account for the cost of dispensing those “extras”?
Well, I like some napkins more than others, and these aren’t my favorite, but they certainly are useful despite their dual function as miniature paper billboards, so I always save the ones left over to repurpose at future mealtimes. But something about smacking one of those down next to a plate of homemade food at the dinner table rubs against my aesthetic sensibilities; the juxtaposition feels jostling somehow, similar to my aversion to eating something like standing rib with plastic flatware. I realize this comes from a place of prejudice, perhaps inculcated from my years spent working in fine dining, but nonetheless I do love the look of a solid color or tasteful pattern in a linen near a plate of food. For this reason, I always take the extra second to fold the napkin so that the busy endorsements printed by whatever restaurant we’d recently frequented are tucked inside, a little pocket of commercialism hidden within. This way, what we see next to the dinner plates are neat and tidy monochromatic rectangles, unassuming and decidedly more nondescript.
See how it’s transformed from a noisy inkfest into a demure quadrilateral reminiscent of a manila folder, as if to say, “I may be environmentally unfriendly, but don’t I at least look recycled and unbleached?”
It’s a small thing, sure. But we all do things like this; it’s one of the ways we work to tailor the world around us so as to promote the kind of order that imparts just a little piece of peace. And if those small acts of arrangement can encourage any amount of harmony, they’ve all earned a place at the table.