It is easy to take for granted the modern kitchen, or more specifically, modern refrigeration. Food can last incredibly long inside of our modern refrigerators, but modern refrigeration is barely 100 years old. What did people do to keep food cool and away from pests before widespread refrigeration? In the 1800s, the icebox became increasingly popular which created a global market for ice to fill the iceboxes.
In the Yearbook of the Department of Agriculture, 1909, one chapter focuses on “Comforts and Conveniences in Farmers’ Homes.” The chapter mentions two kitchen conveniences with a similar purpose: storing leftover food.
One option was the open-air cupboard. This cupboard could be built below a window and allow air to freely move through it. To keep out flies and insects, the cupboard would be lined with fly-screen wire. Though not nearly as efficient as a modern refrigerator, the movement of outside air would keep the food much cooler and fresher than keeping it indoors on a hot summer day.
The second was a cellar cupboard. It too was lined with fly-screen wire and hung in the cellar of a home. Both the cellar cupboard and the open-air cupboard could be used to cool cooked meat and vegetables before placing them in the icebox or as short-term storage for leftover meals.