From the Preface of The Pantry—Its History and Modern Uses
by Catherine Seiberling Pond [Gibbs Smith, Publisher, 2007]
In the Pantry
Pantry —the crisp, even tidy, sound of the word conveys a sense of order and “a place for everything and everything in its place.” Perhaps the origin of that well-worn cliché comes from The Practical Housekeeper, written by Mrs. Elizabeth Ellet in 1857: “Let there be a place for every article, and when not in use let every article be in its place.”
Pantries harbor a nostalgic whiff of our domestic past. Like the attic of an old house, filled with the stuff and chaff of generations, pantries hold the staples and extra things from our kitchens and dining rooms. From early America, throughout the broad stretch of nineteenth-century building styles, and well into the twentieth-century, the pantry evolved along with the many socioeconomic and design changes in the American home. As well as storage and preparation space, a butler’s pantry during the Victorian era was a buffer between the domestic service arena of the kitchen and the murmur of a full-course dinner party. Meanwhile, the self-sufficient farmhouse had pantries and a warren of workrooms for preparing a vast amount of food to eat and store. There is a universal quality to the food pantry and cellar storeroom—they are symbolic of a plentiful simplicity dependent on what we “put up” from our own place and not what we purchased at a store.
When I was eleven I bought my first cookbook, The New England Butt’ry Shelf Cookbook, by Mary Mason Campbell. While drawn to the book because of its diminutive size, nostalgic watercolor illustrations by Tasha Tudor, and traditional New England recipes, it was the title that especially appealed—what was a butt’ry? I thought. It sounded old-fashioned and certainly like it came from old New England, a place I loved to visit each summer when we stayed with my grandparents in their 1792 farmhouse. Meanwhile, back in Ohio, my paternal grandparents had a huge 1920s-era serving pantry colorful glassware and gold-trimmed sets of china shimmered behind tall glass cabinets awaiting the next holiday gathering. Usually on the counter was a tin full of cutout ginger cookies from an old German family recipe—I can still smell and taste them in my mind. Pantries can be a part of our longings for Grandmother’s kitchen or a place of memories…
…A pantry can invoke all manner of pleasant things—visual delights, memories of taste and smell, perhaps even security and comfort. After a long century of pantry decline, many American households are once again returning to the pantry to store their foodstuffs, dishes, unusual collections, and memories of their own making. This book offers ideas and design inspiration for those who wish to create or restore a pantry and for those interested in the domestic history and evolution of American kitchens.