Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Sunday 24 September 2017

Owning an Aga will leave the neighbours envious and offer great winter warmth

Joe Barry

Joe Barry

The desire to be envied by one's neighbours is a weakness shared by most of the human race, and in Ireland we became familiar with numerous outbreaks of ego boosting during the recent but short-lived economic boom.

Many bought things they could ill afford simply to upstage their neighbours but often missed out on the one possession needed to complete an illusion of wealth and status.

Race horses, helicopters, Aston Martin coupes, new kitchens and expensive furniture came and went but this one essential item has outlasted them all.

It is, of course, the Aga cooker, and even if your house is falling down around you, slates slipping off the roof with each storm and your car is an ancient rust bucket, if you have an Aga in the kitchen then apparently your social position is assured.

If you don't believe me just read the property section of any newspaper and you will see that the trophy home on offer usually has an Aga gleaming in the kitchen. Watch the cookery programmes on TV and see how so many celebrity chefs lovingly talk about their Agas while producing sumptuous dishes.

In expensive glossy magazines and society columns, writers will always mention how the home they visited contained an Aga, as if this were part of the owner's personality. There are, of course, posers who only light theirs in winter, if at all and cook on gas or electricity for most of the year.

Clearly they are city dwellers at heart who view their Aga as a desirable status symbol but have little regard for their dogs, for whom drying out while lying against a warm cooker is an essential part of the day. Such people will never know the luxury of pulling on warm wellies in the morning or the need for somewhere to dry wet gloves during lambing time while the beastings from the freezer are gently thawing on the warming plate.

It is, of course, ridiculous that a large lump of cast iron can suggest its owners live a life of country chic with abundant old money and rolling acres.

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It is also a testament to the genius of the firm that markets these cookers that they became such prized possessions.

They were invented more than 70 years ago by Dr Gustaf Dalen, a Nobel prizewinning Swedish physicist who, having lost his sight in an accident, decided to design a cooker that even the blind could use safely.

The result was brilliant, for they are simple and forgiving cookers that won't set the house on fire -- and using them is a matter of instinct rather than clock watching.

You don't need an electric toaster or kettle. Your Aga will do both. In addition, with an overhead rail, the Aga will also do away with the need for a tumble drier. I honestly believe that food tastes better when cooked on one and you never have the smoke of burning fat or steam that you get with other cooking systems.

Having been so scathing about their image, I must confess here that I own one and could never imagine doing without its many fine attributes.

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When I was growing up, the only source of heat in the house during the daytime was the Aga, and on winter mornings, when you could write your name in the frost on the inside of the bedroom window, it provided a haven of warmth and comfort downstairs.

I have resuscitated frozen lambs in the low oven, kept day-old chicks warm when the electricity failed and, perhaps best of all, on returning to the house chilled to the bone on a bitter damp January day, I can throw my coat on top of the cooker to dry and, standing next to it, warm my backside while thawing out.

That is, of course, after beating away the dogs that were asleep in front of it. Agas are safe, easy to use and incredibly versatile -- and when combined with a wood-burning stove in the living room, will keep the house warm throughout the coldest of winters.

Many other firms manufacture excellent cast-iron stoves and cookers but none have achieved the iconic status of the Aga. I must study their advertising methods and see if I could apply them to marketing my wood fuel and make it socially desirable to burn it.

As Aga has proven, selling to the public is about perception.

Indo Farming