An important link between the kitchen and the dining room is the Butlers Pantry. In the beginning, the word "pantry" was applied to the room where the bread was kept, the name being derived from the word "pain," French for bread. Before people became accustomed to the great variety of food used in modern times, bread was the most important article of diet, the mistress of the household being honored by the title "lady" (loaf giver) because she gave out the supply from her store room.
In 19th century affluent homes, where very large dinners were to be taken into consideration, the kitchen and dining-room were situated on the same floor; but at times the lack of space, especially in the city house, often prevented this. The kitchen would be in the basement connected by a dumbwaiter with the butlers pantry. In designing a house, before the architect's drawings were finished, a careful study would be made of the requirements for a kitchen and butlers pantry, a list being made of things to be included so that nothing could be forgotten.
In every household this list would vary -- one housekeeper kept her tablecloths in her linen room and the greater part of her china in a separate closet; she insisted that the light from the window shall fall from the right-hand side on the sink where her maid is to wash dishes; the window must be high, so that people cannot look in. Whereas, her nextdoor neighbor would wish all these conditions reversed and order the window low down so that her servants in working can watch the entrance and be ready to answer the door bell. Although these items add immeasurably to preferences of the homeowner, the following discusses the basic requirements for a butlers pantry.
The first thing to provide in a butlers pantry is a place to deposit the dishes, on their way to or from the dining room. A wide shelf of wood running around the room gives ample space for this. Sometimes, drop shelves are hinged to the edge, to give more space if necessary.
The next thing is to have a place for washing the dishes; the most convenient way is to have a sink or several sinks. Today a dishwasher is often included in the butlers pantry but washing delicate and expensive china and crystal by hand is a time honored practice. The model housekeeper never allows her dishes to drain. She removes every particle of food into a proper receptacle, then dips each piece of glass, silver or china separately, first into a sink full of hot soapsuds, rubbing lightly with a white cloth, then into another tub of equally hot, clean water and dries it without delay on a fresh linen towel, changing the towel when it becomes damp. This may be done with the utmost rapidity, and the dishes set at once in their proper positions on the shelves. After the intense heat drys off all moisture, the surface shines with cleanliness.
China and glass are kept on shelves in kitchen dressers in the butlers pantry above the counter-shelf, large platters being arranged on edge, back of the piles of plates. Distance between shelves varies according to the size of the dishes; small shelves are set in between the large ones, for tumblers, and for the various small dishes; cups hang on small brass hooks screwed up into the under side of the shelves. Places are carefully arranged for all kinds of dishes, teapots, pitchers, etc., an arrangement of this kind encouraging order and neatness, as it is easy to put things at once where they belong. Sliding glass doors are provided to shut the dishes away from dust.
Racks for Trays:
Close under the lowest shelf of the kitchen dresser nearest the dining room door is a wire rack into which the silver trays for handling the dishes are slipped when not in use.
Under the countershelf cupboards, are shelves and paneled doors. In these are kept the glass towels, chamois skins, brushes, cloths, silicon, soap, ammonia, polishes, extra mops and sponges, etc.
One division under the counter-shelf is devoted to the plate warmer where plates and sometimes the dishes are kept at proper temperature in the butlers pantry till their term of service comes.
Under the counter-shelf also, a small refrigerator is built in. When salads or desserts are prepared in the butlers pantry, they are left here with a store of cream and wine.
Drawers are planned of sizes varying according to the sizes of things they are to contain. Silver is generally kept on or in the sideboard in the dining room; sometimes the linen also is kept there. If not, small drawers are provided in the butlers pantry, divided into compartments, and lined with felt, for all sizes of knives, forks, and spoons. One very long drawer is necessary for tablecloths which are rolled on a roller at the laundry, to be laid without a crease on the dinner table. Napkins, serviettes, teacloths, table centers, etc., each have their places. As a rule, only the linen in daily use is kept here. One drawer is devoted to corkscrews, graters, can-openers, and various small tools.
[Excerpt from: The American Pantry by
Katherine C. Budd]