Everything is shrinking, except the deficit. First, TV and the Internet turned our great big world into a global village, and now this: Restaurant napkins have shrunk, from a standard size of 30-inch square about 25 years ago to the paltry 20-inch square we find in most restaurants today.
Most, that is. Some napkins aren't even that big: Applebee's two-ply paper versions measure only 15 inches by 17 inches. Everything you ever wanted to know about this shocking shrinkage is contained in The Great Shrink, an article by William L. Hamilton, in the Wall Street Journal's Life & Culture section. I agree with Hamilton's lament. Being a messy person, I'm tired of my clothing doubling as napery, but at least I've come to understand that it's not my fault-I don't have enough of napkin to begin with.
In his humorous piece, Hamilton notes that the White House uses 20-by-20 linens for state dinners (great, if you're a visiting dignitary), but, as for Buckingham Palace, it would only say that it does not disclose housekeeping information. (I'm sure there's nothing to the rumor that Her Majesty now insists on squares of Bounty in an effort to save the taxpayers money.) Only the French Laundry in Napa County has those luxurious big, 25-by-25 squares of yore. Unfortunately, Thomas Keller's restaurant, often called the best in America, is impossible to get into.
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