Some of her friends call it "The Emergency Pantry." The owner objects to the term because it conveys an idea of bandages and styptics. Whereas, the cozy closet devoted to the comfort of possible guests - to be welcomed and fed, although unexpected - contains substantial food and appetizing delicacies.
She belongs to the great and growing host of suburbanites dependent upon peripatetic butcher and baker, and the nearest "general store." The keeper of the typical general store never orders so much as one jar of marmalade or a pound of fancy biscuits until the last is sold, and has never a twinge of mortification in saying: "Just out! Expect new lot next week."
So our hospitable housewife stocks and keeps filled her reserve shelves.
John has a way of bringing home a chance guest to dinner when the notion strikes him, and Mrs. Notable's town friends have their way of happening to be in dear Mary's neighborhood about lunch time, and, having come all the way out from town, it is hardly worth while to go home when there are afternoon calls to be paid in the suburbs. When one of these calls chances to be upon Mrs. Notable, afternoon tea must be served. Mrs. Notable's daughters join theater and concert parties, going early into the city and coming out late and hungry. Iced lemonade, ginger ale, cake and sandwiches refresh them and their attendants in summer, and on winter nights something hot and savory from "mother's chafing dish."
Back of all this stands mother's Impromptu Larder. One shelf holds the best brand of canned soups, chicken, tongue and boned ham; another sardines, anchovies in oil, anchovy paste and pate de foie gras, soused mackerel, and mackerel with tomato sauce.
Baked beans, plain, and baked beans with tomato sauce, have honorable place among potted foods; also dainty jars of fancy cheeses, ready for use at a second's notice, and bottles of grated Parmesan. Olives, including pimolas, stand in line with "pin-money pickles" and catsups. There is a brave array of homemade jellies, marmalades, brandied and pickled peaches; a case of imported ginger ale, bottles of domestic liqueurs, and glass cans of apple-sauce and tomatoes, put up in Mrs. Notable's own kitchen. A fair proportion of each kind of pickle and preserve is set aside for the Impromptu Larder and not touched for family consumption.
Fancy biscuits of many sorts have several shelves for their own; sweet and unsweetened cheese biscuits, sea-foams and snow-flakes and zwieback; hard crackers and soft crackers; plain wafers, fruit wafers and cream wafers; lady-fingers and ginger-snaps - make a goodly show to the eye and stay the mistress's surprised soul when the impromptu luncheon or supper must be more sudden and abundant than usual.
"My strong tower!" she once called this pantry, laughingly.
Mrs. Notable is not a rich woman. She is obliged to make each dollar do the full work of one hundred cents. To this end she keeps an "expense book," setting down every article purchased and the cost thereof.
In the account of necessary outlays that for replenishing the stores in the strong tower is registered under the head of "hospitality."