The Napkin

A few weeks ago a beam of sunshine cracked through the thick layers of gray and we celebrated by going out to a cafe. Our son ordered a tosti (a diminuitive of the grilled cheese sandwich) and Chocomel (chocolate milk that is so well branded, it dominates the market, and is a staple in every restaurant). Our son’s tosti arrived on a plate with the napkin placed under the sandwich.

“Why do they always do that?” my son asked, annoyed that a string of melted cheese had soiled the napkin. I’ve run into this scenario time and time again; food placed on top of a napkin, negating it’s function, rendering it useless.

We are napkin users, my son and I; breakfast, lunch and dinner a cloth napkin is placed beside our plate. And we use them to wipe our faces and our hands. My Dutch husband, on the other hand, uses a napkin so rarely that I’ve stopped placing one on the table for him. Only in extreme cases, such as sauce dripping down his hands, will he ask for one.

My husband’s napkin patterns seem to be representative of the Dutch. If you go to an upscale restaurant, the cloth napkins are a compulsory part of the set up, but the Dutch let them lie on the table. Dinners with friends are napkinless. And if my son or I ask, our hosts head bewildered to the kitchen, going through drawers in search of fancy paper napkins left over from an event a few years back, or if these are not to be found, guiltily hand over a paper towel. When did napkins go by the wayside?

Peanut Butter and Jelly

When I was staying with my brother and his family in the U.S. last summer, there was one morning ritual that brought joy to my heart; a hot cup of coffee or tea, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on toasted bread. This combination was a staple in my childhood diet, the theme of 6th grade science camp campfire songs and on many kid’s menus in restaurants.

But what do the Dutch think of our prized PB &Js? I was working with a group of Dutch people in the church setting up a big event. When we sat down together to take a lunch break, everyone got out their sack lunches. I retrieved my PB & J and started eating. Several people asked about my sandwich and when I explained, they looked at me like I was crazy. They certainly take jam on their bread, and kids usually like peanut butter on bread, but never shall the two meet–unless that bread is in the hands of an American. Do Canadians, Australians, Brits or others also know the joy of a PB & J?

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