Although the tantalizing aroma of memorable dinners came from the kitchen stove, the pantry and its cabinets held all the ingredients, as well as most of the pots and pans needed for preparation.
Most pantries had large sinks in which vegetables were washed, and spaces on which food was prepared. Dishes and silverware were kept in kitchen cabinets, close to the table at which food would be eaten, unless it was a special occasion befitting the dining room.
Somewhere along the way, the pantry fell out of favor with new-home buyers.
Starting in the 1960's and for more than 25 years after, no one wanted pantries. Women didn't work outside the home as much as they do today, and could make more frequent trips to the store.
Kitchens were able to hold all that a family needed for a couple of days.
New houses typically lacked pantries until the mid-1980's, when more families began depending on two paychecks and began making fewer trips to the supermarket.
In most houses, the storage issue was resolved temporarily by the addition of a large closet in the kitchen. This came with shelves and drawers for storing food and appliances that the homeowner didn't want kept out on the kitchen counter.
It still wasn't enough.
So about 10 years ago, some builders of higher-end houses -- $500,000 or more -- began offering old-style pantries off the kitchen.
It has finally trickled down and become mainstream to the rest of the new-house market. Where the square footage will allow it, the full pantry is preferred by buyers over closets with pullouts and ever-unfolding cabinets.
Many builders offer the pantry in combination with the mudroom. The pantry tends to be a multipurpose room along the lines of a mudroom. These pantries aren't full-size rooms, but more like half-rooms with space near the kitchen and ample storage space, different kinds of shelving and more than enough room for storage.
In many floor plans, the pantry is between the kitchen and the mudroom, allowing the homeowner to bring the groceries in from the garage without having to go through the house.
The modern pantry should not be confused with the butler's pantry, which is an area off the dining room where food is kept before being served and special dishes are stored.
The pantry of today resembles the ones in older houses, except that new ones often don't have the window that supplied the light by which cooks of bygone eras prepared meals.
The advent of the two-paycheck family and the longer period between shopping trips are just two reasons for the rebirth of the pantry.
In the 1960's and 1970's, Americans stopped cooking as much as they once did, and they depended more on frozen foods that could be prepared by simply heating them up. Thus, we needed more refrigerator and freezer space, which could be met in the kitchen and the basement.
But once Americans began cooking from scratch again, dry storage that had been provided by the pantry became critical.
There is a definite search for freshness. Even in many small towns, you can buy fresh produce at outdoor markets six days a week.
The fresh-produce craze has spawned renewed interest in home canning, with, for example, homeowners spending weekends making vast quantities of tomato sauce to reduce food-preparation time during the week.
More and more, Americans buy in bulk to save money, at outlets such as B.J.'s and Sam's Club that cater to such needs. Where would you store those big bags of dog food, the huge bottles of soda, and the giant-size cereal boxes unless you had a pantry to do it?
There also has been heightened interest in health, not only in buying fresh foods, but safely preparing them -- a traditional function of the pantry. Modern pantries typically don't have sinks, however.
Interest in pantries is high among people who live in houses that were built in 1960's through late 1980's. Sadly, they just don't have the space available to do more than a large drawer or some shelves that may or may not be near enough to the kitchen to be useful.
With the pantry having trickled down to less-affluent buyers, how are high-end buyers differentiating themselves these days?
Wine cellars. Usually on the other side of the pantry.