Before the modern kitchen came to be — with its many closets and cupboards — the accoutrêments of cooking were stored in a pantry, a room off the kitchen. As society changed over the years, the pantry fell out of favor. But now people are rediscovering the wisdom — and pleasure — of having such a place.
Catherine Seiberling Pond remembers seeing colorful glassware, the gold-trimmed Christmas china and a tin of ginger cookies on her childhood visits to her grandmother’s 1920s-style pantry. It is a magical memory for her, created in the swirl of many family get-togethers. “I can still smell and taste them in my mind,” she says.
When she married and moved to an 1813-vintage house in Hancock, she found that two interior rooms near the kitchen and dining room were likely once pantries. Six years ago, the old pantries were restored. In the time since then, Pond has explored why she has what she calls “pantry craving,” and this year she published a book about it called “The Pantry: Its History and Modern Uses.” She was motivated to write it by the fact that she could find no book that was entirely about the pantry. “It was always just a chapter in another book,” she says.
With photographs that are guaranteed to evoke some memories for just about everyone, Pond traces the historical evolution of pantries from the Early American times through the Victorian Age to WWII and to today. She explores the socio-economic reasons they disappeared and are now reappearing in house designs. Pantries are once again the most-requested features of a home, despite the fact there are more kitchen countertops and cabinets than ever. Others are re-converting mud rooms, bathrooms and storage rooms back to pantries, just as Pond did.
As Pond, who is an architectural historian and former house museum manager, writes in her book: “A funny thing happened on the way to the millennium, we began to cook more, bake more, buy more, and stockpile more. We not only enjoy power shopping at large wholesale grocery stores, but we like to have something on hand for a rainy day or a possible catastrophe.” She adds, “Near our large kitchens, we also want that cozy, well-ordered room where we might be reminded of our grandmother’s house or where we know that somehow in a crazy world, a full larder will keep us safe.”
In the book you’ll find ideas and design inspiration for how to create or restore a modern pantry and what to stock it with — among her suggestions, baskets or metal bins for food storage, spice jars and canisters with old or new labels, cookbooks, antique linens or piles of colorful assorted dish towels and tablecloths, and everyday dishes or antique collections. And don’t forget the apron hung on Shaker pegs or cast-iron hooks. Pond says, “Even if you never wear them, they look great hanging up.”
When it comes to displaying collections, Pond says the Hoosier or Hoosier-style pantry is a popular choice today (see photo of LuRay collection p. 66). As an early 20th-century advertisement shown in Pond’s book said, the Hoosier, an Indiana invention, was “a pantry - cupboard - work-table combined,” a moveable piece of furniture that Pond says was a step-saver: “It was the first time everything a cook needed was right there.”
If you can’t find, or afford, an authentic Hoosier for your collection display, there are reproductions available. You can also find reproduction jars, flour sifters and all the other iconic items of the Hoosier.
By WWII, Pond says, both the Hoosier and the pantry were out of style. Not only was there more built-in kitchen cabinetry — with rationing and strictures against hoarding because of the war effort — storing food, except that “put up” from a victory garden, was frowned upon.
Aside from its informative tracing of history (including tidbits like where the word “larder” came from), “The Pantry”
covers food storage solutions, what to put in a pantry, how to choose the right materials, design and layout, display and décor tips and much more. There’s also a listing of pantries that are open to the public; though there are none in New Hampshire, you can get your dose of nostalgia in Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont and Rhode Island.
As Pond says in her book: “A pantry can invoke all manner of pleasant things — visual delights, memories of taste and smell, perhaps even security and comfort.”
For more information, visit www.gibbs-smith.com and www.catherinepond.com. Visit Pond’s blog at www.inthepantry.blogspot.com.
Excerpts from “The Pantry: Its History and Modern Uses” by Catherine Seiberling Pond reprinted with permission, Gibbs Smith, Publisher.
Have trouble deciding which colors to put together in a room or neighboring rooms?
Fear not with the new Affinity color palette from Benjamin Moore. They have assembled a full deck of 144 hues that have been “cultivated” to mix and match with each other in perfect harmony. All 144 colors are fully coordinated to be an eye-pleasing contrast or complement. If you are looking for ideas for combinations, they have suggested several collections to create specific looks like “global artisan” or “eclectic chic.”
These new hues are only available in the, also new, Benjamin Moore “Aura” paint line. This line has a color locking technology — the water-based pigments are microscopically bonded to the base for superior depth of color. Beyond that, the thick and creamy paint flows on well, and covers well in one coat, or in extreme color changes, two. It’s fully washable and, with low VOC, it is environmentally safe.
Fall Home Listing
As the weather turns cold, our attentions turn inside to home and hearth. Here’s a resource list for fall projects.
The Stove Shoppe
25 Indian Rock Rd. (Rte. 111)
237 Calef Rd. (Rte. 125)
Feel the Warmth Fireplace and Home Center
273 South River Rd.
(603) 669-9276 or
toll free (888) 696-9276
Artistic Masonry LLC
Hearth Works Fireplace
23 Rte. 125
77 Londonderry Turnpike (28 Bypass)
Fireplace Depot Inc.
98 Rte. 101A
All Basics Stove Shop
2315 Columbia Circle
North Hill Nursery and
206 Lafayette Road
Home and Hearth, Inc.
102 Lafayette Rd.
Getting ready for winter
Weather Wise Heating and
65 Rte. 13, Brookline
Brookline: (603) 673-3705
Nashua: (603) 880-3012
Manchester: (603) 641-9700
Home Energy Products
160 Daniel Webster Hwy.
(603) 524-2308 or (800) 924-6568
Total Air Supply
171 East Hollis St.
Oil Heat Council of NH
Closets/Pantry Organization and Design
New England Closet Design
Find a local retailer at
26 Bryant Road
Boston Closet Company
229 Lowell St.
All In Order Pro
16 Brook Hollow Dr.
15 Banfield Rd.
400 FW Hartford Dr.
Excalibur Shelving Systems
292 Burnham Intervale Rd.
124 Dracut Rd.
The Closet Factory
67 Pine Rd., Hudson
This article appears in the March 2010 issue of New Hampshire Magazine