Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Pantry by Catherine Seiberling Pond

7. The Pantry
Its History and Modern Uses
by Catherine Seiberling Pond
nonfiction, 2007
finished, 2/2/10

This is my perfect book. It has been sitting on an old library table in the living room since the day it came in the mail. I pick it up nearly every day and look through it. The photographs set me dreaming. I've now read the book in its entirety, and have found the words to be as beautiful as the photographs.

There is factual information, there are old advertisements, there are poems, there are quotes,

and there are photographs of pantries.

My favorite quote in the book is about the problems of multi-tasking, written 120 years ago!
Calmness and method ... are the housekeeper's best friends. Do one thing at a time. (There! I've forgotten my bread in the oven! I put it into bake when I was writing. All burnt on top! Oh, Dear!) Where was I? Oh, one thing at a time! Don't stop to shed a retrospective tear over old letters in the garret while baking sponge cake, nor hunt for eggs in the barn with the pantry door wide open for the cat to enter in search of a nice dessert. A housekeeper needs her wits about her.
Mrs. Mary R. P. Hatch, Daughters of America, 1890
The Pantry is divided into such chapters as:

The Early American Pantry: Larders, Butt'ries, and Storerooms
The Farmhouse Pantry: Workrooms of Self-Sufficiency
The Victorian Pantry: The Realm of Domesticity
The Twentieth-Century Pantry: Its Rise, Fall, and Return

You may recall a cookbook mentioned here a few years ago, called The New England Butt'ry Shelf Cookbook. In the entry, I wrote about how I grew up with a 'butt'ry.' It was a north-facing little room off the kitchen, with wainscoted cupboards and linoleum countertops (which are still in great shape 60 years on). Several years ago, I thought of starting an email list called, The Country Butt'ry Recipe Exchange with this as the premise:
The essence is to offer a place for women to exchange recipes that are either old family favorites, or new ones using genuine, old ingredients. Here is not the place for meals made in the microwave. In this kitchen we bake in the oven, filling the house with the wonderful smells of fresh bread, or fruit desserts, or brownies. This is the place to come where you are filled with the warmth and goodness of cooking with real ingredients. This is a list for the sharing of breads and desserts, strawberry shortcakes and cranberry bread. This is a vegetarian kitchen so no meats or fish or lard. Eggs and butter and milk are heartily welcomed though! I hope there will be a mix of old and young women who love cooking.
Well, I never did it, but the idea expresses the 'essence' of who I am. I'm not a crafter or knitter or seasonal decorator. The heart of my home is the kitchen.

I 'met' the author by typing 'butt'ry' into a search engine. Turns out that she is also a fan of the lovely little cookbook. Catherine Seiberling Pond is such a nice person, and she has a beautiful blog. You may buy this book directly from her. If you go here you may see a slideshow of photographs from the book. They are my inspirations for some house work we are doing; revamping a space that was a farmhouse butt'ry when we bought the house. It was essentially gutted and for several years was a space for dogs to go when their company wasn't appreciated in the rest of the house. The walls are a mess, the floor was a wreck, but slowly, slowly it is becoming a space that I love. I'm showing some pictures of where we are so far. Tom built that wonderful ceiling to floor shelving with beadboard backing. We haven't decided yet if we are going to paint or varnish.

The old Larkin desk (which Tom's late step-grandfather won by selling soap as a young boy) has been given a new purpose as a storage space. It is right across from the new shelves.

My Hoosier has made appearances here before.

This kind of cupboard is featured in The Pantry. There's a great old ad telling the reader that:
Hoosier cabinets save one-half the time and one-half the labor by grouping every article at your fingers' ends.
Not only does The Pantry offer a fascinating glimpse into the history of pantries, and incredibly gorgeous photographs, but it also is set up beautifully. It is a feast for the eyes and inspiration for the imagination. You will come to the end knowing that you, too, can create something this beautiful, even in a small way. Catherine offers practical ideas on tranforming an area into a pantry, and she has lists of what to put in your pantry.

So, truly, this is a perfect book: it is history, is is beauty, it is a guide, and perhaps most importantly it can be your own personal dreambook. Please do buy it for yourself. You will be so very glad you did.

Addendum: Cornflower wrote about The Pantry here.


  1. i am not sure if i would like the book as much as your pictures and stories!!! thank you for sharing this nan.

  2. Oh, you would, you would! I feared I put too much of 'me' in this book report. :<)

  3. Nan,
    Well, Nan, I just ordered this book, being a stone cold pantry lover, and also the First in the Irish Country Doctor series.
    What would i do without your recommendations???

  4. Julie, this makes me so, so happy. Thank you for letting me know.

  5. Lovely book report, I really enjoyed it. A treat to see your splendid new shelves too.
    What is the difference between a pantry and a larder, do you know?

  6. Thank you, Carole! According to the book,
    'pantry and larder are often synonymous terms, especially in England. In the Middle Ages foodstuffs were stored in bulk to accommodate large castle dinners and the inevitability of being under siege for long stretches. The larder was a cool room or cellar for storing meats and spoilable foods: meats were originally stored in barrels or crocks of rendered lard, hence the name.' Carole, you would love, love this book, I'm sure. Cornflower got it from The Book Depository.

  7. It sounds like a book I would love to peruse. I would love to have a space for a pantry. Actually we have one but it isn't so neat. Hmmm i could use some inspiration.

  8. Lisa, there are lots of ideas in the book - I think you'd love it.

  9. What a fun book. The cover image alone makes me want it.

  10. Sounds like a fun book. I like the poster to the left of the Larkin desk. We have a set of similar ones in our kitchen.

  11. I also love pantries and the Buttry Cookbook. I used to live in a house with a pantry and miss it. I also "met" the author recently and it turns out she used to work for my parents and actually wrote about my family on her blog! Small world.

  12. This sounds and looks like a book I would love too! I have just left my kitchen where I have been busy making 'parkin' a Yorkshire cake,I used black treacle, something which always was in my Mum's cubbard, she did not have a room which you could call a pantry but her cubbard was always well stocked with things that I now think of lovingly, they remind me of home long ago!

  13. Ooh, I've had my eye on that books for simply ages and now I must have a copy ... even though I've not a snowball's chance in the firey place of ever having a real pantry! I just wish that there was an English equivalent book as I suspect this is about American pantrys. Although, I don't suppose they can be all that different - just that you speak of cookies and not biscuits, and so forth!
    Margaret P

  14. Thomas, the inside pictures are even more appealing. Hope you have a minute to look at the slide show.

    Scriptor, you know what - friends brought us back that poster from Paris in the early 1970s. It is faded but I just love the children and the ducks and the French language. I'm interested in your 'set.' Do you have a picture up anywhere?

    Sarah, that is just amazing!!

    K, this book is right up your alley, or street as you might say. Nostalgic, informative, and practical all at once.

    Margaret, I once stayed in a rental house in Wales for a week, and the pantry there was much as those Catherine describes in her book. I think you would find it familiar and wonderful.

  15. This looks fabulous - have it on hold at the library. So does the book in your sidebar about Grandmother's cooking.

  16. Tara, I have a feeling you might buy it after you've seen it. What a lovely book it is. I wasn't kidding. I do look at it almost every day. :<)

    And At Grandmother's Table is also just your kind of book. Recipes with reminiscences.

  17. As always, I love looking at pictures of your home! Thanks for posting these.

    The book looks lovely. I'll have to see if we carry it.

    Have you been over to Heather's blog (Beauty That Moves) lately? She posted about her pantry! You two are on the same wave-length. :)

  18. Thanks, Les, for directing me to Heather's post. I hadn't seen it. Amazing. Hers is more like mine was growing up except the wood in mine was painted. The window was removed when my parents put on an enclosed sunporch addition. I think Catherine has most of the copies now, so ordering from her may be your best bet. I got mine that way. This is your kind of book, Les. You'd probably look at the pictures almost every day as I do. :<)

  19. Oh, this looks like a book I would love! I already have a fantasy pantry that I dream of having some day. This book would be great for feeding that fantasy. :-P

  20. Jeanette, it really offers the best ideas! You will love it.

  21. Oh, my--just placed my order for this book. Thank you, Nan, for a wonderful review. I remember the pantry from the house where I grew up along with the corner in the fieldstone cellar where potatoes and blue hubbard squash were stored--enough for an entire winter!

  22. Marcia, I'm so happy you are buying the book, and Catherine will be too! Did mice ever get your vegetables? We have a fieldstone cellar with a mostly dirt floor and I'm not sure we could store food down there. I've thought of doing a photographic blog entry of those stones. It seems like stonehenge to me: how did they ever lug them and place them? :<)


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