Friday, January 11, 2008

in the larder

lar-der -(lar'der) noun [Middle English, from Middle French lardier, from lard] (14th cent.) 1. a place where food is stored: pantry. 2. a supply of food.

Larder is a word that is seldom used these days. If I hear someone using it in speech chances are they are rural dwellers and most possibly from the south. My pedigree is strictly city born and raised, but with the deepest rural southern roots and watching my grandmother and other older relatives cook meant that my larder would be different than most of my contemporaries.

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For modern day homemakers a larder would be the pantry and since we are in a mobile global society it could be restocked at any given time. In the past a larder was very important and sometimes the key to survival. Talk about organization, these people had to think way ahead, sometimes a year in advance. Planning, planting and finding ways to store food was the key to survival.

Items like eggs wouldn't technically be considered a larder item because they could be replenished simply by walking out to the henhouse. Flour would be included in the larder because of the length of it's production cycle.

I happened upon a great book entitled, "This Cruel War" by Grant and Malinda Taylor. It's an almost complete set of letters written between husband and wife during his service in the Civil War. It's a fascinating look into daily life and the concerns of people during that time. At the beginning Grant spent an inordinate amount of time in his letters discussing salt...."here's the man you need to buy the salt from...did you get the salt? ....don't forget to hitch the wagon and buy the salt...time is running short for purchasing the salt." So much time and effort was spent pushing Malinda about the salt. In those days salt was the key to surviving the winter. A hog would be butchered in the fall and the meat would be salted, cured and stored for use in the coming months. Without it survival was questionable. I highly recommend this book if you're interested in how people lived day to day in the past.

Homes would have had a root cellar to store potatoes and other root vegetables. There also might have been a spring house where cool water would flow over a area containing the containers of milk, the eggs and other items that needed to stay cold.

I'm always interested in what people keep in their modern day larders. Most often their choices are influenced by region and ethnic background. Hopefully people are moving away from this preprocessed jungle:

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....and moving more towards cooking from scratch.

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I learned to cook by the seat of my pants, which is a country method of cooking basics without recipes. I do use recipes for the more complicated dishes and due to the fact that my memory ain't what it used to be.

My modern larder contains four types of flour. Wheat (bread baking), white (dessert baking and breading), self-rising southern milled (for biscuits) and 00 grind semolina for making pasta.
Corn starch; to thicken gravies.

It also contains canned goods, both commercial and home canned. (Roll over photo with your mouse - items are tagged)

grape jelly sealed with wax,homemade pickles,rhubarb relish

Fresh eggs from a local farm. I promise to take you on a field trip there someday. You drive up, get your eggs from an outdoor fridge and leave your money.

Lemons by the bags. I had a bit of lemon juice to many, many recipes to add just a hint of citrus.

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Whole spices that I grind as needed. White, black, pink and green pepper; cardomon, Vietnamese cinnamon, cumin, paprika, just to name a few. The aforementioned salt; iodized, kosher and sea salt.
Herbs. Fresh of course, since the farmer works in the fresh herb business. Tarragon is the favorite.
Potatoes. White, red and sweet. Yukon gold on occasion.
Onions; yellow.
Bread crumbs made from stale bread.
Mayonnaise; southern style, preferably Blue Plate.
Chesse; cheddar, swiss, parmesan & romano at all times! Cannot live without cheese.

The most unusual item in my larder would have to be Sorghum molasses. It's not something that most people keep and it's not really for cooking but for mashing with butter and eating on hot biscuits.

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The oddity in my larder would be a jar of pre-made Cajun roux, but that's a story for another day!

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You will notice there is no actual lard in my larder. For pie crusts I use vegetable shortening or butter depending upon my mood.

In the end, these are the things I have on hand for everyday cooking. Specialty items are puchased as needed, but these are the basics. I'm sure I've left something out, but you get the idea.

I'd love to know what's in your larder. Feel free to make a list in the comments or if you'd like to do a little larder challenge, create an entry on your blog and link back to this post.

Dont' forget, this is that last day of the CONTEST.

Tomorrow we'll talk about artifacts. It's probably not what you think.

5 comments:

diane said...

I would have to say that my most regional item I have in my pantry would be Old Bay Seasoning. In fact I add it to so many things that I don't keep it in my pantry. I keep it in my wall cabinet next to the salt and pepper. I know you enjoy the potato chips (Utz) in my region that are seasoned with Old Bay. It's really good on popcorn too. I've never acquired a taste for microwaved popcorn so I still pop my own in a kettle. Real melted butter, sprinkled with Old Bay, yum!

Suzanne said...

Oh yes, the UTZ Crab Chips!!! Old Bay is a great seasoning. I'm going to have to remember to add it to more dishes in the future.

T said...

Is it still possible to buy sorghum? I remember my grandparents doing that - mashing it with butter and eating it on homemade bread. Yum.
Tiffani

Suzanne said...

t - Yes - that's exactly how my grandparents ate it. It's available in the food stores in the south. Outside of the south it can be purchased at Cracker Barrel gift shops. That's where I got this jar.

MommyMommy said...

ovaltine. Matza ball soup mix, and better than bullion are probably the 3 most unussual things in my larder, besides spices.