Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Hen Pantry

A modern day buttery in an old Western Reserve farmhouse in northeastern Ohio.

Several months ago a reader contacted me about my blog and book and I was delighted to discover that she is a fellow butt'ry (or "buttery") aficionado. She also, at my request, sent me some photos of the buttery (and Hen Pantry) that she has created in her old Ohio farmhouse. [She also happens to be a Della Lutes fan and that combination, as well as her connections to my home state, well, let's just say it is kismet.]

The new Hen Pantry of a blog reader in her Ohio farmhouse could easily be over 100 years old.

This reader, who prefers anonymity, named her pantry "the Hen Pantry" because when she inquired of Tasha Tudor's family why they referred to her pantry as "The Hen's Pantry," they answered that this is where the grain was kept for the chickens and that it was the pantry closest to the chicken house (assuming Tasha Tudor had several pantries, and why not?). These pantries are worthy of a design book and display historic kitchen and pantry items as well as more modern items stored out of sight.

In The Pantry-Its History and Modern Uses I wrote:
"A buttery was originally a storeroom for large barrels, or 'butts,' of beer, ale, and large provisions. In castles with great halls, the nobility ate at one end, on the dais raised above the rest of the room, and on the opposite wall was a screen that divided the great hall from the corridor that led to the pantry and buttery, where servants carried food back and forth to the diners."

This reader's buttery could easily be found in an 18th or 19th century farmhouse.

One of the inspirations for writing The Pantry was Mary Mason Campbell's The Butt'ry Shelf Cookbook. The introduction of this book includes a detailed description of a New Hampshire butt'ry (something that was a part of most farmhouses). This is a mere taste of Campbell's homage (and I included it in The Pantry):
“City people used to have pantries,” begins Mary Mason Campbell in her romantic homage to the New England pantry in The Butt’ry Shelf Cookbook. “The country counterpart of the pantry was called a ‘butt’ry.’ In occasional hidden corners of New England, this country room may still be found in use, but only the most old-fashioned houses, loved and lived in by the most old-fashioned kind of people, have a ‘butt’ry’ these days...The butt’ry (properly spelled buttery, of course) is a small room with a smell of good things to eat and a look of delicious plenty. It is located next to the kitchen in the cool corner of the house. Its window is shaded in summer by a crab-apple tree. . . . In the winter now the butt’ry is warm and cheerful, though in years gone by it was often bitter cold and the New England housewife who never dreamed of such a thing as an electric freezer kept her store of frozen pies and muffins and cookies handy to the kitchen on a shelf of the butt’ry...Sheathed in warm-colored pine boards, the walls of the butt’ry are lined with hand-planed shelves, sturdy enough to bear the weight of jars, crocks, platters, and plates filled with the richness of country cooking...“Every inch of the butt’ry is crowded with goodness.”
Here is another lovely pantry creation, including a display of Mary Mason Campbell's The Butt'ry Shelf Cookbook over at a delightful blog I just discovered called Storybook Woods. Clarice Fox-Hughes has shown her readers "A Well Working Pantry." It is also attractive, too. [Clarice also reminded me today when I emailed her that she featured my book in a blog from last year on Pantry Love that also has photographs of many other enticing pantries. Thanks again, Clarice!]

I miss my pantries and the original kitchen pantry cupboards back in our former 1813 home. I long for, and have planned on paper, my ideal farmhouse pantry. One day! Until that time I will live vicariously through other pantry friends, descriptions, literary references and photographs. Thank you to "The Hen Pantry" for the use of her photographs of her lovely pantry and buttery. I invite any reader to submit other pantry images or references to

PS An afterthought: believe it or not, and in part because of the inspiration of a hen pantry, when we do build that dream farmhouse I want to have the kitchen ell with pantry and laundry room access out a side door near where we have our wood shed (already in place) and where I want the clothesline to be and the hen house...which, by the way, is officially finished TODAY after some last details (most of it was built over a month ago but they are finishing up at the farm on the recent building for some fencing and cattle and our orchard and the garden...anyway, elusive Chicken House blog will be posted very soon...)


Storybook Woods said...

Wow, "hen's" pantry is wonderful. I had fun looking at all the details. How could one not want to cook with a pantry like this one. Thank you for sharing it with us. Also for the kind words. Clarice

The Hen Pantry said...

Hi Catherine,
I just wrote up a long post and goofed when I forgot to post it after I previewed it! Rats!

I haven't been here for so long that I didn't see till now that you finished your beautiful hen house. It's going to make some hens very happy. You're going to have fun.

Also, I wrote that I was surprised when I came across the photos of my buttry. I take awful photos, don't I? Anyway thank you for the nice comments. I'm far from home at the moment and when I saw the pictures I was homesick. I love being at home.

Another thing, I wanted to thank you for the very kind words you left on FB about my relationship to my grown kids. It does feel good when you realize that your kids do like you and that all the work (mistakes and all) paid off. I was looking at all the pictures of you and your family and I can see you have the same thing there with your family. Lucky us, huh!

I'm trying to catch up on the rest of your blogs and making lots of notes of books and authors to check out. Some great stuff. Like you I'm being very careful about buying more books or anything else but it's hard. I have lots of interests that match yours and buying books about what I love is probably my worst addiction...well, maybe after good food.

Thanks again Catherine
The Hen Pantry

Jason and Kristin said...

This Butt'ry is wonderful. It looks a lot like my father- in- law's workmanship. Is it a David T. Smith built Butt'ry- or is it Amish- or neither? Whoever did it did exceptional work!

Nan said...

I just found you this minute and am thrilled. I'll spend more time roaming around but this is a blog I will visit often. I did a search on bing images for butt'ry, and you came up. I love all the pictures on this page. I did a blog entry a couple years ago in which I mentioned the Butt'ry Shelf Cookbook: