I’d been thinking for some time about doing a blog on pantries of the yesterday’s. I don’t have any pictures of the pantries in the houses I lived in over the years. I don’t have any pictures of the houses I lived in during my childhood, and that’s sad because some of them were great houses. I decided to do a search on Google using the key words, old pantries. I just couldn’t believe the things that came up, lots and lots of restaurants named, The Pantry, The Old Pantry and The Pantry House which I think are all great names. The other thing I pulled up was “Pantry Kitchens” for those less fortunate folks going through some hard times, it was nice to see so many of them around the country.
I wonder how many of you know what an old fashioned pantry really is. Many pictures came up showing a small room with rows and rows of shelves filled with canned food. Now that may very well be what some or even many pantries were like in the 20’s and 30’s but they are not like the pantries in my life. I was born in 1939 and these are my memories of our pantries.
I was in first grade and lived in a big old farm house in Massachusetts and it had a big pantry off the kitchen, or maybe it wasn’t so big but that I was small. It was narrow and long with counters over rows of cabinets and drawers under them and rows of shelves from the ceiling down to the counter tops. A window was at the very end of the room for plenty of light to come in. When you’d open a cabinet door you might see a large bin for holding your potato’s and another smaller bin behind another cabinet door for flour.
I often hid in the pantry staying very quiet so my brothers wouldn’t find me. One time I actually tried to crawl into the potato bin while hiding from them, it didn’t work, I couldn’t fit. Our pantry had long counter tops over the cabinets and mom would put two or three pies on them to cool.
Some had the kitchen sink in them and in one place we lived in Connecticut it had room for our ice box, yes we had an ice box in my day. Most families had electric refrigerators by now but we were some what poor and still could not afford to buy such a luxury item just yet. We were not alone though because in the summers I remember several kids in our neighborhood waiting for the iceman to come and deliver the ice to their homes too. When the truck pulled up to our houses we would run up to the iceman and just stand their with our hands held out like we were trying to cup some water with big smiles on our faces. He knew what we wanted because it was a weekly task and he never seemed to mind it. The task, chipping off pieces of ice for us to gleefully run off crunching on it and cold streams of water running down our faces. He wore a large black rubber cape type article on his back and large claw type tongs to grab and hold tight the big square chunks of ice, then he’d swing it over his back to carry it up to our kitchens. The ice box had a large tray under the ice shelf with a rubber tube connected to a hole in the tray that ran all the way down the back of the refrigerator to the floor resting in a good size pan that had to be emptied out every night by which ever kid was available, usually it was emptied after we got done doing the dishes which included washing, drying, and putting them up on the long shelves in the pantry.
Have you seen old ice boxes in antique shops, some of them are absolutely beautiful and can cost hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars. Ours was not like them, it was a plain white box, top part held the block of ice and bottom had three shelves for the food, nothing pretty about it. I’m happy to see that in some new homes the old fashioned pantry is coming back, except not so old fashioned and folks that own these homes don’t really know what they are missing.
Author Eileen Clark
This link will take you to some beautiful pantry designs of today. https://www.oldhouseonline.com/kitchens-and-baths-articles/pantry-design-ideas/