Always the iconic Australian cupboard is the meat safe. This is vintage. Rustic. Primitive. Depression era. Well used. Well worn. A traditional storage item sometimes called a pantry cupboard. Sometimes called a pie safe or jelly cupboard in the USA.
Lovely blue colour not often seen in Australian kitchens as they were generally decorated in drab shades of cream, yellow, ochre, brown and green. Take a peek here where I spoke about the rustic white meat safe we have in our kitchen and meat safes in general.
This is an old one found at a farmhouse near Tungkillo, a little country town on the Adelaide to Mannum road about 60km/30miles northeast of Adelaide and a few miles out of Mt. Pleasant. The elderly owner told me that it had been in the family for many years and belonged to her parents. She explained that the legs on the left side had been cut down to accommodate the slope of the floor in the kitchen. Yes, the left side is lower than the right which means the cupboard slopes in our house where the floors are level. Apparently it was not unusual to cut the legs to suit the crooked, uneven floors.
I guess these days it’s still done, not by cutting, but by using screw type legs that can be raised and lowered according to floor height or uneveness e.g. stoves and fridges. Many cabinets, especially kitchen cupboards, are on legs ready to be raised and lowered usually via turning them.
Such a shabby piece of history. Honestly. Look at the fly wire inserts for ventilation. Old. Rusty. Torn. We tend to use wire gauze now, the modern version of fly screen wire.
In the post about the white meatsafe (above) I said:
Historically, these cupboards were for protecting meat and other food perishables from heat and insects mainly flies. In the early days there was little if any refrigeration and fresh meat had to be cooked when obtained or preserved via salting, smoking or drying. It was then placed in the meat safe. I learn that the earliest meat safes, while they were timber framed, had hessian (burlap) or canvas stretched on the sides and frames which was water soaked to act as an evaporative coolant.
If you like these vintage utilitarian type items, as I do, you might also like this rustic meat safe I came across in Adelaide.
Of course it needs some TLC, some repairs. Nothing major though. Mainly the wire inserts, some beading replaced and adding pieces to raise the shortened pair of legs.
I would keep the old blue finish. As is. Give it a good clean. Nice and chippy.
Of course Jean-Louise has to meddle in the affair.
Nice wide drawer at the front. Many of the meat safes don’t have a drawer. I prefer them with drawers.
Don’t forget that these old cabinets are excellent for up-cycling. Excellent for general storage or for display units. Look great without any wire or gauze inserted in the sections. I have a taller one with side sections of solid plywood and 2 front doors that open like french doors. No screen wire or gauze in the front sections. No drawer. Fabulous rusticity for general storage and display.
Not sure if I’m going to keep this one. I’m in love with it though. Anything like this I find hard to part with. Sigh ….
It sort of speaks to me. Plain and functional it reminds me of days gone by. Of my childhood. All us kids. Of history. Culinary history. Of Mum cooking. Baking. Rolling pastry. Making jam. Preserving. Making butter. The warm, delicious smells, the aromas of the kitchen. The olden days. Of family. Of food. Of early kitchens. Of hardship, hard work. Of farm life. Of heat. Of lamb and mutton. Of hanging plum pudding. Of drought. Floods. Warmth. Winter. Children. Love. Hope.
Trouble is, there’s really no room in the kitchen for it.