Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Saturday, 8 August 2015
For all you Bake-Off fans, I thought I would show you this little wayside shrine hidden away on the outskirts of Bath - an AGA in Mary Berry's old house there. Yes, the cookery queen has actually used this oven.
AGAs are like Land-Rovers - idiosyncratic, difficult to use and expensive to maintain. I have never lived with an AGA, but I have used them quite a lot. I have lived with a Rayburn, which was the 'modern' version of a coal or wood-fired Victorian range. Mine was coal-fired and you learned to time everything about 1 hour in advance when cooking. Luckily I had a gas cooker as a back-up.
If you live in town and have aspirations toward AGA ownership, then they make oil and electric versions as well, of course. In the Winter, I like AGAs, but I hate them in the Summer. If you depend on them for cooking and hot water, then they simmer away right through the hottest of days, making the kitchen a little piece of hell on earth, when it should be the family focal-point. (No conflicts of interest there, then).
A few years ago, I bought a new cooker - very cheaply off the net. We run on bottled gas, which means that all of our gas cooking bills amount to no more than three bottles at £33 each, per year. That is very cheap.
A friend came round to our compact but adorable city apartment (haven't said that for a while) for the first time a year or two ago, and was visibly shocked at the primitive facilities of our kitchen. I was supposed to have a separate hob, set into an island wood top, with an independent, multiple-choice, fan-assisted oven below, but what we really have is something designed for for life on a boat.
I wish I could say that it did everything that a £2000 cooker does, but it doesn't. It cost under £200 and I am thinking about selling it to a boat-dweller and spend a few extra 100s on something a little more sophisticated. The trouble is that you are forced to use butane when indoors, and butane is so much less efficient than propane.
I was in a house once which had just been fitted with a brand-new, shiny AGA. The engineer was just making the final touches to the installation. The final touches involve polishing the copper pipework until it looks like the bed-warmers you see hanging from pub walls. AGA insists on it when they dole out the dealerships.