An Ideal Kitchen


Sleep Aid

Vermeer, A Maid Asleep


It’s late, and you’re still awake. Allow us to help with Sleep Aid, a series devoted to curing insomnia with the dullest, most soporific texts available in the public domain. Tonight’s prescription: a chapter from An Ideal Kitchen, an 1887 book by Maria Parloa.



A storeroom well arranged and properly managed is a source of economy, security, and comfort to a housekeeper. It should be kept locked except when stores are being put in or taken out. Light should be furnished by a small window. For a household of moderate size a room 7 × 5 feet will suffice. In the ground-plan given on page 10 no provision is made for such a room on the first floor, but there would be space for one if the china closet were made smaller and there were no closets in the back hall.

Broad shelves should run all round the room, and there should be a movable set of broad, firm steps—say two or three steps—for use in reaching the upper shelves. The floor and shelves should be planed smooth, that there may be no grooves nor defective places where any substance which may be spilled will lodge, giving a disagreeable odor to the room. The shelves must be made strong, so that no danger shall arise from putting a great weight of stores on them. A tier of three shelves will be enough. Have a space of about twenty inches between the shelves. Do not have any of the woodwork painted. The walls may be plastered or sheathed. If plastered, they may be whitened each spring, if necessary. This will freshen and sweeten the room. The shelves and floor may be cleaned once a month, and the other woodwork washed twice a year. Care must be taken not to use much water. The room should be kept dry, as well as clean, cool, and dark.

Use the lower shelves for such supplies as are frequently drawn upon, and the upper ones for those stores which are used the least. On the upper shelves there may also be kept such kitchen utensils as may be required to replace those which become worthless,—such as bowls and cups, saucepans, etc., which a wise housekeeper will always keep in reserve.

If flour be kept in a barrel in the storeroom, there should be a strong rack, a few inches from the floor (as recommended for the pantry), on which to place the barrel; the idea being to get a free circulation of air under the barrel and prevent dampness. Such groceries as molasses, granulated sugar, vinegar, wine, cider, washing-soda, etc., may be kept on the floor. A strip of wood into which are screwed half a dozen or more hooks, may be fastened on one side of the room, and on it can be hung the brushes, brooms, etc., required to replace those which become worn out.

Following is a list of supplies which should be kept in the storeroom. In sections of the country where such articles as shrimp and lobster can always be found fresh it will not be necessary to use canned goods. Again, in those places where fish and oysters are never found fresh, it is well, on account of the saving in cost, to buy them by the quantity, as one would buy canned peas, tomatoes, mushrooms, etc. In some parts of the country the people depend almost wholly upon condensed milk rather than upon the fresh fluid. If canned milk must be used, a considerable saving can be made by buying a large quantity at one time. Then, too, if one be so placed that it would not be possible to obtain an extra quantity of milk in an emergency, it will be well to keep a few cans of condensed milk on hand.

Time and money will be saved by purchasing by the dozen such canned goods as peas, tomatoes, mushrooms, peaches, apricots, as well as gelatine, etc. Soap and Sapolio, candles and starch, all should be bought by the box. It is well to have peas of two qualities,—the small French peas for use as a vegetable, and the larger and cheaper kind for making soups and purées. Truffles, caviare, sardines, anchovies in various forms, and a few other things, are luxuries in which many housekeepers never indulge; and in any case a small can or bottle is all that one will require in a storeroom, provided one lives in or near a large city where such articles can be obtained.

In the list of supplies which follows these remarks are mentioned many things not actually essential, but which are very useful in giving variety to the fare. It may surprise some readers that dried or smoked fish, ham, bacon, salt pork, brown soap, and some other articles are not included in the list. The reason is, that they have moisture or a strong odor, two things to be avoided in a storeroom where delicate groceries are kept. A cold room where there is a free circulation of air is a better place for them.

Experience has proved that tin boxes are the best receptacles for all kinds of food that would attract mice or weevils. Tin boxes are, to be sure, much more expensive than wooden buckets; but as they are lasting and perfectly secure, it is, in the end, economical to buy them. Each box should be labelled; and if they be made to order, it will be well to have the labels painted on them at the time. Such boxes as cracker-manufacturers use will answer for this purpose, and a housekeeper may obtain them through her grocer if no more convenient way presents itself. When made to order, tin boxes are expensive.

First Shelf.—Graham, corn meal, both white and yellow, oatmeal, rye meal, hominy, buckwheat, rice, soda, cream-of-tartar, tapioca, powdered and block sugar, dried peas, beans, barley, picked raisins, currants that have been cleaned, eggs, cheese, gelatine, tea, coffee, chocolate, starch, bluing, candles; all the articles, except the last three and the gelatine, to be kept in tin boxes.

Second Shelf.—Olive oil, vanilla, lemon, orange, and almond extracts, Santa Cruz rum, eau-de-vie de Dantzic, maraschino, brandy, white wine, tarragon vinegar, olives, capers, liquid rennet; table salt, macaroni, spaghetti, vermicelli, crackers, lime-water, stove-polish, Sapolio, Castile soap, toilet soap, chloride of lime.

Preserved ginger, pickles, anchovy paste, chutney sauce, extract of meat in small jars, arrowroot, cornstarch, potted ham, tongue, and chicken, French paste for coloring soups and sauces, devilled ham, anchovies in oil and in salt, Russian caviare, sardines, orange marmalade, jellies, canned and preserved fruits, almonds, citron, candied lemon and orange peel, tomato, walnut, and mushroom ketchup, essence of anchovy, curry-powder, white and red pepper, essence of shrimp, Worcestershire or Leicestershire sauce, and these whole spices,-nutmegs, cloves, cinnamon, mace, allspice, pepper-corns, and ginger; these ground spices,—mace, cinnamon, clove, allspice, ginger; these whole herbs,—sage, savory, thyme, parsley, sweet-marjoram, summer savory, tarragon; these ground herbs,—sage, summer savory, thyme, parsley, sweet-marjoram.

Third Shelf.—These canned vegetables,—button onions, cauliflower, peas, string beans, shelled beans, mixed vegetables, tomatoes, and corn; also, canned cèpes, mushrooms, truffles, salmon, lobster, shrimp, chicken and tongue, and dessert biscuit, prunes, twine, chamois skin, whiting, household ammonia, clothes-pins.

Floor.—Molasses, cider, vinegar, granulated sugar, wine, coarse salt for freezing, washing-soda for the plumbing.


This room should be on the north side of the house, and should have two small windows, on two sides of the room, if possible. A broad beam should extend across one end of the room, at least one foot from the wall. Strong meat-hooks should be fastened in this beam, on which to hang ham, bacon, smoked tongue, smoked salmon, and fresh meat or poultry that is to be kept a day or more. At the other end of the room there should be broad, strong shelves on which to put the tubs or jars in which pork, lard, pickles, etc., are kept. All the things which should be kept very cold, such as fruits, vegetables, preserves, etc., may be stored in this room.

If one have a good light cellar, the cold storeroom may be arranged there. The entrance should be near the kitchen stairs. In most modern cellars the furnace gives so much heat that a separate place is required for storage purposes. If one be about to build a house, it will be well to take this matter under consideration. Have a separate cellar under the kitchen, and keep it for vegetables and a storeroom. In the larger cellar have the furnace, fuel-bins, and a workshop, if one be needed. If the cellar extend the entire length of the house, a cold room may be made by building a brick partition at the end of the cellar farthest from the furnace. The room, whether on the ground floor or downstairs, should be so arranged that it can be made light when necessary. The windows should have inside blinds.

In most households the cellar will be found to be the most desirable place for a cold room, because the temperature will be more even than in a place above ground. Dry atmosphere, light, and ventilation are the special points to keep in mind. Even in an old house, where the light is insufficient, large windows may be put in, and the trouble thus easily remedied. Perfect cleanliness and frequent airing are necessary for the preservation of food in this room.

Of course, it is desirable to have the room divided into two parts,—a thin partition will suffice,—that the milk and butter in one compartment shall not absorb the flavor of meats, fish, fruits, or vegetables kept in the other. If there be no refrigerator in the pantry, have one in this room. Ice will not melt so quickly here as in other parts of the house.

A writer who has given considerable thought to the subject of ventilation says that “a great mistake is sometimes made in ventilating cellars and milk-houses. The object of ventilation is to keep the cellars cool and dry, but this object often fails of being accomplished by a common mistake, and instead the cellar is made both warm and damp. A cool place should never be ventilated unless the air admitted is cooler than the air within, or is at least as cool as that, or only a very little warmer. The warmer the air the more moisture it holds in suspension. Necessarily, the cooler the air the more this moisture is condensed and precipitated. When a cool cellar is aired on a warm day, the entering air being in motion appears cool; but as it fills the cellar the cooler air with which it becomes mixed chills it, the moisture is condensed, and dew is deposited on the cold walls, and may often be seen running down them in streams. Then the cellar is damp, and soon becomes mouldy. To avoid this, the windows should only be opened at night, and late,—the last thing before retiring. There is no need to fear that the night air is unhealthful; it is as pure as the air of midday, and is really drier. The cool air enters the apartment during the night and circulates through it. The windows should be closed before sunrise in the morning, and kept closed and shaded through the day. If the air of the cellar be damp, it may be thoroughly dried by placing in it a peck of fresh lime in an open box. A peck of lime will absorb about seven pounds, or more than three quarts, of water; and in this way a cellar or milkroom may soon be dried, even in the hottest weather.”


Between the kitchen and dining-room there should be a closet where the dining-room dishes (except rare glass and china) can be kept, and where the glassware, silver, and delicate china—if not all the china—can be washed. A window is needed in this room. Have the floor made of hard wood, unless it is to be covered. If covered, use lignum. A woollen carpet never should be laid in a china closet. The walls may be sheathed, or plastered and painted. Everything considered, sheathing with well-finished hard wood is the best plan.

On one side of the room have closets about three feet high, beginning at the floor. Above the closets have broad shelves. These should have deep grooves, so that meat dishes may be placed on edge and inclined against the wall. On the opposite side of the room have a similar tier of shelves, with drawers, instead of closets, under the lowest. If the room be planned like that in the design given, there will be space between the two tiers of shelves already mentioned for still another tier, although it will be better to save this space for the steps needed for reaching the high shelves. These steps should be broad, as a precaution against accidents to anybody and damage to dishes.

The shelves should be made of smooth hard wood, which is easily kept clean. It adds considerably to the cost of the room, but also considerably to the convenience, to have sliding glass doors in front of the shelves. They will exclude a great deal of the dust which otherwise would collect.

At one end of the room, near the window, have a sink for washing dishes,—not such a sink as that in the kitchen, but a rather small basin, say of copper, about eighteen inches long, twelve wide, and eight or nine deep. Copper is especially recommended because it wears better than zinc. A soapstone sink or a porcelain-lined pan would be desirable but for the greater liability of breaking dishes. It is a good idea to have a small cedar tub—they are made with brass hoops, and look very neat—for the washing of the most delicate china and glassware, which is likely to get marred or broken if crowded into a pan with other heavier articles.

On each side of the sink have a swinging table, on which to place dishes. The tables will at times be convenient when making salads and other similar dishes. Above the table nearest the kitchen have a slide in the wall, that dishes may be passed to and from the kitchen. This small space will not admit odors or the hot air as the door would if kept open. In case there be two or more servants in the household, the door from the closet to the kitchen need not be opened at all while a meal is served, all dishes being passed through the slide.

The small closets in the room are for the sugar, tea, condiments, and the cake, bread, and cracker boxes. There should be one small closet for the articles used in cleaning the table-ware, such as soap, whiting, alcohol, ammonia, brushes, chamois skin, etc. The drawers under the shelves are intended for the table linen, clean dish-towels, etc.

A towel-rack that can be fastened to the window-casing is a necessity. In case the walls be plastered or tiled, a broad moulding of wood should be placed just above the sink. Brass hooks screwed into this moulding will prove to be a great convenience.

This room is often called the butler’s pantry.