For the second consecutive week, I’m beginning this-here post with a book reference. Deal with it, people. I’m a reader.
With that settled, here’s the reference. A character in Andrew Sean Greer’s second Less book – yes, I’m also making my second consecutive book series reference – explains to the title character that people made sport of her mother’s family. They regarded them as the type of people who couldn’t set a table.
Although I’m almost certain I was familiar with this phrase, I didn’t know the meaning until she explained that it implied her mother’s family didn’t have matching silverware or dinnerware and, thus, couldn’t set a proper table.
To be clear, I have matching silverware and dinnerware and, thus, can set a table. Of course, I had to discard a plate and a bowl after breaking them beyond repair on separate occasions. So, I can’t set a big table.
But when I think about a proper table, my mind goes to place mats, cloth napkins, and napkin rings. In other words, things I don’t own.
I have friends who do own and use them. When I stayed with my bestie, she served meals on a proper table complete with all the above. Whilst on the town with another friend, she searched for new place mats.
How did I get such fancy friends?
For a good chunk of my life, the only place mats I was familiar with featured mazes and word searches and were accompanied by crayons.
As for napkins…restaurants legit give them to you when you order takeout or food in a drive-thru. If you’re not too messy, you can accumulate napkins and use them for years. They also double as paper towels.
Notice I wrote variations of the word “you” twice in the sentence before last. Whilst I use restaurant napkins, I give my guests store-bought napkins because I do have some understanding of etiquette.
By the way, restaurants will also give you ketchup. I don’t eat ketchup, but I collect packets for guests. It’s the least I can do.
At this point, you might be saying to yourself, “Self, serving guests packets of ketchup from restaurants and giving them paper napkins is so gauche.”
I beg your pardon. I’m cheap, but I’m not gauche.
I’m also not the type of person who’s going to own napkin rings and place mats. That’s fine for my fancy friends. That’s who they are. But if they came to my house and I served a meal with cloth napkins, they’d suspect that the real me had been kidnapped.
Unless they asked for ketchup and I pulled out a packet I’d saved from Dorsie’s Dairy Bar.
This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.