Ancient Roman dinner guests are depicted lounging on a triclinium. “If they were too full to finish their food, they could wrap the leftovers in a napkin to take home.” – Requesting a restaurant “doggy bag” is seen as an American custom. It has long been frowned upon, and considered poor etiquette, especially at the end of business meals, wedding receptions or birthday parties.
The French consider the doggy bag as an affront to gastronomic etiquette, but restaurants there are legally obliged to provide them if requested by diners, since a law went into effect in 2016, in a move to cut food wastage. “Many chefs detest ‘le doggy bag’ – there is no French term for it – because they think it implies that their food is only fit for dogs. The hotel and restaurant industry union has been trying to promote the use of another franglais term, “le gourmet bag,” to encourage the practice.” – The Telegraph
The first napkin was a lump of dough the Spartans called ‘apomagdalie.’ It was a mixture cut into small pieces, which was rolled and kneeded at the table. This custom that led to using sliced bread to wipe the hands. In Roman antiquity, napkins known as ‘sudaria’ and ‘mappae’ were made in both small and large lengths.
The ‘sudarium,’ Latin for ‘handkerchief,’ was a pocket-size fabric for blotting the brow during meals in the warm Mediterranean climate. The ‘mappa’ was a larger cloth spread over the edge of the couch, and acted as protection from food taken in a reclining position. The fabric was also used to blot the lips. Although each guest supplied his own mappa, on departure ‘mappae’ (plural) were filled with delicacies leftover from the feast, a custom that continues today in American restaurant ‘doggy bags.’ –Sources include Margaret Visser's “The Rituals of Dinner” and “The Art of the Table”
Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia