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Essential qualities of a larder include:
- as cool as possible
- close to food preparation areas
- constructed so as to exclude flies and vermin
- easy to keep clean
- equipped with shelves and cupboards appropriate to the food being stored.
In the northern hemisphere, most houses would arrange to have their larder and kitchen on the north or east side of the house where it received the least amount of sun. In Australia and New Zealand larders were placed on the south or east sides of the house for the same reason.
Many larders have small unglazed windows with the window opening covered in fine mesh. This allows free circulation of air without allowing flies to enter. Many larders have tiled or painted walls to simplify cleaning. Older larders and especially those in larger houses have hooks in the ceiling to hang joints of meat or game. Others have insulated containers for ice, anticipating the future development of refrigerators.
A pantry may contain a thrawl, which is a term used in Yorkshire and Derbyshire, and is a stone slab or shelf used to keep food cool in the days before refrigeration was domestically available. In the late medieval hall, a thrawl would have been appropriate to a larder. In a large or moderately large nineteenth-century house, all these rooms would have been placed as low in the building as possible, or as convenient, in order to use the mass of the ground to retain a low summer temperature. For this reason, a buttery was usually called the cellar by this stage.
Very few modern houses have larders since this need is now satisfied by refrigerators, freezers, and by the convenience of modern grocery stores that obviate the need to store food for long periods.
In medieval households the larder was an office responsible for meat and fish, as well as the room where these commodities were kept. It was headed by a larderer. The Scots term for larder was the spence, and so in Scotland larderers (also pantlers and cellarers) were known as spencers. This is one of the derivations of the modern surname.
The office generally was subordinated to the kitchen, and existed as a separate office only in larger households. It was closely connected with other offices of the kitchen, such as the saucery and the scullery.
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- Woolgar, C. M. (1999). The Great Household in Late Medieval England. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. pp. 111, 144. ISBN 0-300-07687-8.
- p.142 of Early Indus Civilizations