My first introduction to a pantry occurred when I was a teenager, sleeping over at a friend’s house. When we baked lemon squares we ran out of sugar. “No problem,” Cathy announced, “We’ll get more from the basement.” I followed her to a cool storage room lined with shelves like a grocery store, full of home-canned pickles, jams and juices as well as store-bought products. Baskets of potatoes and onions sat on the concrete floor. “We’ve probably got enough food here to last us a year,” she bragged.
I marvelled. Later I asked my mom why we didn’t do that since we had an allotment garden provided by the Air Force that grew an abundance of food. “I did at first,” she replied, “But because we were transferred so often and we weren’t allowed to take our canning with us, I gave up.”
Houses used to be built with a cool room intended for food storage, and perhaps as more people depend on their own produce, we’ll once again see rooms dedicated to their keep.
In her book The Care and Feeding of The Sailing Crew, Lin Pardey relates how she kept food from spoiling on trips across the Pacific without refrigeration. She kept eggs fresh for a month by storing them in the cold bow below the water line and turned them every day. She could make fresh meat last a few days longer by stewing it in a pot one day, not removing the lid and then boiling it for 10 minutes on each succeeding day.
Because there was no grocery shopping at sea, Lin learned what to take along and how to cook meals tasty enough to entice crew members to sign on for the next voyage and she teaches the reader what she learned.
Our pantries can fill a similar need, because who knows when we’ll need to have our own supply of vittles. Books recommend certain temperatures and humidity for various crops, but Lin didn’t have these options and managed to store food quite nicely for many weeks at a time. Other than keeping food off the floor, I don’t keep track of what food should go where in the pantry and most of the time they keep very well.
If one has very little self control, she might reconsider storing tasty nibbles like chocolate chips though, or she might be shunned by the rest of the family like the fellow on one of Lin’s trips. He couldn’t help himself and, one night, he sneaked into the galley and ate the entire store of chocolate bars that were to see them through the entire voyage. When the rest of the crew got wind of what he’d done, they had to be held back from keel-hauling the guy.