Monday, 1 April 2013

A is for Aga



The heart of our childhood home was the Aga – the cast iron, two door, creamy primrose coloured Aga ... we cooked with it, we hugged around it, we warmed our hands on it, we dried our clothes on it, we kept the winter chills away ...


... but more it was the endless breakfasts, lunches, cakes for tea, and suppers that were cooked on it ... the families could not be without their Agas – grandmothers had them, aunts had them, this generation has them ...  (I haven’t, but I’d love one!).


A Swedish design – the Aga was invented in 1922 by the Nobel Prize-winning Swedish physicist Dr Gustaf Dalen (1865-1937), and first imported into Britain in 1929.


Although he had lost his sight in an explosion, he was inspired to create a better, more efficient cooker for his wife, who constantly had to tend to their old-fashioned range and was exhausted from it.


Dalen created a cast-iron cooker capable of every kind of cooking simultaneously, through its two large hotplates and two ovens: the AGA was born.

1938 Aga
The anthracite (slow burning coal) was scuttled into the ‘fire’ through the left hand hot plate, the centre piece of which was lifted off to expose the fire box.


Our family and kitchen revolved around the Aga – certainly inspiring me to cook the first meal I remember – breakfast in bed for my parents – the full works ... mushrooms, tomatoes, eggs from our chickens, chipolata sausages, bacon, fried bread ... tea provided by the Teasmade – an innovation in the 1950s ...


Some interesting snippets via The DailyTelegraph in 2009, when they searched out the oldest working models, and stories from the Aga hearthside ... some very amusing! – e.g. the peeking children ....


That is A for Aga from Aspects of British Cookery


Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories
# 492 in the challenge

81 comments:

Rosalind Adam said...

I would love an Aga but I've never ever used one so I'd probably have big trouble with it. Friends have an Aga and it's where we all gather, just like you say.
Rosalind Adam is Writing in the Rain

Sarah Holmes said...

I've very fond memories of learning to bake bread in an Aga with a family friend as a child. It is certainly on my wish list for the 'dream home' one day!

Ida Chiavaro said...

thanks for the trip down memory lane, we never had an aga - just a stove, but a lot of things happened there that bought the family together. At first I thought you meant Agar - the jelly.

Nick Wilford said...

Never lived in a house with an Aga but they're certainly held in high regard. Wonder if the inventor lost his vision in a cooking explosion?

Val Poore said...

Oh how you take me back!! We had an Aga at home in Dorset. They are the most wonderful heart to the home you can wish for.

Manzanita said...

Of course, I've never seen one but I'd love to. I've always liked stoves. The menu of your breakfast is mighty mouth-watering and it will be nagging at me until I go and eat breakfast. Haha Thanks Hilary

Old Kitty said...

Awwww love that the beginnings of the Aga is kind of a love story really!! Blinded Nobel prize winning physicist invents a cooker for his beloved to make her life easier! Awwww!! Take care
x

Hart Johnson said...

Oh, how interesting! The predecessor of the modern stove! I had heard the word, but wouldn't have known what one was to describe it. I love it!

Hart Johnson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ghadeer said...

Isn't it true that the central point of a family always lies in wherever the good food comes from?

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Ros - it is a little different .. but so much easier - always hot! Not so good when it's 80 in the shade - but now-a-days you can get ones that you can turn off ..

@ Sara - good to see you - and yes it's on my list for my dream home - baking bread ... too delicious ... I can smell it now!

@ Ida - ah ah .. no Aga - the cooker - but the kitchen draws everyone in .. I could have done Agar too ..

@ Nick - they're lovely ... the inventor was injured in a flash gas explosion in 1912, but still managed to work and invent things ... it's an interesting story. see Wiki:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gustaf_Dalen

@ Val - thought I might pull a few heart strings with this post. Good to know you had one too ..

@ Manzanita - yes I could happily eat breakfast now .. I don't too often, but when the opportunity occurs I tuck in ... I remember that day - I had difficulty clambering the narrow staircase with the tray!

@ Old Kitty - he was working in that field .. but it is a love story isn't it.

@ Hart - they're still around today and have a revival by opening up in China ... and now we can get gas or electric ones - not sure about the solid fuel types - I expect they've been superseded - except they'll be making spare parts for ever! Perhaps the solid fuel ones go to China - that seems likely ..

@ Ghadeer - always true .. the warmth and centre of family life - the stove.

Thanks everyone - great start to the A-Z .. enjoy April - Hilary

Denise Covey said...

I love reading about the Aga in novels. We call it a slow combustion stove in Oz and I had one when I lived in the country. So cozy...D

Bob Scotney said...

I enjoyed standing next to the Aga warming my knowledge in a house once owned by my younger son.

If you stay with a cookery theme, Hilary there is now fear of our posts crossing this year. My garden will not include vegetables.

YVONNE LEWIS: said...

Great subject for the A in the challenge Hilary, I well remember the Aga mum made some good meals on ours.

Yvonne.

Optimistic Existentialist said...

I don't think I've ever seen one. Hope you had a nice Easter Hilary!!

Jo said...

My parents had an Aga for quite a few years on board the Sunfish (a motor fishing vessel) it was a big one with four ovens. If they went away, taking care of it was a right chore, I hated it. Marvelous stove though. Saw one on sale in NC some years ago, I could buy a house cheaper.

Like your theme.

Laura Eno said...

I've seen those before (in Europe) but I didn't know they had an actual name...other than oven. :)

Laura Eno – A Shift in Dimensions

Bish Denham said...

I have never heard of a an Aga, but it sounds like a great stove.

Teresa Coltrin said...

The Aga is beautiful as well as functional. I think I hear affection in your words for this important piece in the kitchen?

T

Tina said...

I had NO idea those were invented by a Swede! How totally cool. LOVED this post. Makes me want to go cook something...

Tina @ Life is Good
Co-host, April 2013 A-Z Challenge Blog
@TinaLifeisGood, #atozchallenge

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Denise .. the "Aga" has so much more warming resonance .. mind you it's a shortform! But slow combustion stove is a mouthful?! Glad you enjoyed yours though ..

@ Bob - they're good bum warmers aren't they! Ah ah - no veggies in your garden - then it's fine .. at least I won't have to rewrite Warkworth this year ..

@ Yvonne - Agas are great stoves aren't they and lovely foods come out of them ...

@ Keith - haven't you .. the experience of an Aga encourages much love and warmth and good food!

@ Jo - on the Sunfish - must have been some sturdy motor fishing vessel! We only had a two oven installed, so once in .. it was enough - when we revamped the house .. my father designed surfaces around its new position - so it was even more efficiently used. I'm certain you could buy a house more cheaply!!

@ Laura - a short form name .. but much loved around homes used to them ..

@ Bish - it's a wonderful cooker .. produces delicious food!!

@ Teresa - yes .. nostalgia and desire for an Aga .. a big kitchen, cosy chairs ... what could be better?! You guessed right ..

@ Tina - did that take you by surprise .. Leif needs to update his daughter!!

No you can't go cook anything .. got to co-host the A-Z!!!

Cheers and yes - I must learn how to do the signature etc ..

Thanks everyone .. Hilary

Karen Walker said...

Now that's something I've never heard of. I just love you, Hilary.
Karen

Lisa said...

I've heard of these and even seen one in an "antique" store. My mother in law still cooks on a stove that closely resembles an Aga! Thanks for sharing the history, and, I think the inventor's story would make a great book! In the "images" you wrote from your past you can feel the warmth. Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment as well! Glad to have found you! Happy A to Z blogging! Lisa

TALON said...

The Aga looks like a serious piece of kitchen equipment! Much more intimidating than your usual range. I've only seen one in a museum here...and thought it was amazing.

Karen Lange said...

Love this interesting bit of history! So glad you shared it for A day! :) Happy A to Z!

Rob Z Tobor said...

The Aga is still alive and well around here, although we have a oil fired Stanley which is as near as dam it the same thing

Good luck on the A to Z

Rob Z Tobor

Clarissa Draper said...

I hear the Aga is going back in style with the young people--as a vintage item.

Lynn Proctor said...

i love your stove--i have my grandmother's old stove, just for decor--it is no longer working :)

Pearson Report said...

My friend, Dieter, has an Aga in his home in the Cariboo.

It's the heart of his home; it's central to entertaining; to warming one's cockles and to get clothing warmed up before heading out for some amazing cross-country skiing.

Great start to the challenge...your posts are always a highlight!

Jenny @ PEARSON REPORT


Gattina said...

My grandma had a similar stove at least it looks like your Aga and everything was cooked on there and also the water for my bath in a tin tube when I was a little girl, in the kitchen besides the stove of course lol !

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Cooking multiple dishes at once - I bet that did make it much easier for the cook.

Julie Flanders said...

I'd never heard of an Aga before, how interesting. Now I want to go back in time and visit your family home to gather around the Aga. You always come up with such great themes!

Roland D. Yeomans said...

What a fascinating post. Like Julie, I had never heard of an aga before. Limited me! :-)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Karen .. Agas started making an appearance in New York!!

@ Lisa - there are a few varieties now and they can be refurbished and brought back to life.

I agree Gustaf Dalen's story would make a great love story novel ..

Yes - the Aga brings back happy memories from home, and from other family and friends' houses ..

@ Talon - the Aga is usually on all the time ... it's interesting they're in Museums, yet are still so much part of life ..

@ Karen - I love posting about slightly different things ..

@ Rob - oh yes one of the alternatives .. my mother had a Raeburn on her move to Cornwall, though my grandparents had an Aga in their house across the peninsula. They're such wonderful items to cook on .. and you've got oil - so you can switch it off in very hot weathers .. bet it stayed on all last summer, it was so wet!

@ Clarissa - yes certainly New York has Agas, as does China .. and I'm sure they are still being installed here - as a vintage item with a modern use.

@ Lynn - those beloved items are the centre point of a room - even if it's for decor ... and will remind you of so much ...

@ Jenny - gosh what a lovely home to visit for skiing .. and yes, it would certainly warm your clothes through .. let alone entertaining etc ... lucky you to know Dieter and his family! Thanks so much ..

@ Gattina - I'm sure your grandmother's stove was similar - and they were so useful .. and some definitely heat the water .. my brother's does, though there's an extra immersion heater to top up the heating. Our hot water was done via another anthracite stove .. and I don't think I ever bathed in a tin tub .. til I had an army shower in Namibia - waste not want not water ...

@ Alex - oh it's bliss to cook with an Aga and the plates are warm ... so the food doesn't get cold ..

@ Julie - I can understand that .. and I'd love to have you share our family home -I'll have to get myself an Aga sometime then you can! Thanks re the theme - I do like to do different!!

@ Roland - well not really the last place you need an Aga is in Louisiana ... but in the Great Lakes area perhaps .. still delighted you enjoyed the post.

Cheers to you all - seems to have stirred memories .. happy A-Z Hilary

Susan Oloier said...

I've actually never heard of an aga before your post. But what a lovely tribute.

Sherry Ellis said...

Would you believe I had never heard of an Aga? I just learned something today! Thank you!

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Here in Canada they're called simply cook stores and used wood for burning. I've always loved them. Have you seen the one in Downton Abbey? Very kewl.

Happy blogging, Hilary. Looking forward to reading all your posts.

Elise Fallson said...

I do like the look of the Aga . . . reminiscent of a time when people had more time to cook. (:

Chatty Crone said...

I just read about that on another blog about a month ago - never heard of it before.

So it cooked with coal? I learn something all the time.

sandie

Susan Roebuck said...

Porridge! I remember staying at a farmhouse once and their aga was on all day making the place nice and cosy and the porridge sooooo creamy.

Jenny said...

I've never heard of an Aga. Thanks for teaching me something new today! Have fun with A to Z!

Jenny at Choice City Native

klahanie said...

Hi Hilary,

This posting reminded me of 'Lady Aga'. I think I might of got that wrong.

My friends who live in Cardigan, Wales have an Aga in their living room. It's great for heating and I noticed they hang their laundry on a line over top of it.

Okay, I now realise the alphabet challenge starts with "A"! :)

Stay warm. I just ate an upside down cake....

Gary :)

DL Hammons said...

That's some old school cooking right there! :)

Janie Junebug said...

That's so cool. I'd love to have one.

Love,
Janie

Susanne Drazic said...

I had never heard of an Aga until I read your post. It's fun to learn something new. : ) Great start to the A-Z Challenge.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Susan - glad I've given you some idea of the Aga, and to find that you've enjoyed the introduction ..

@ Sherry - well as I mentioned re Susan above .. glad you've learned something ...!!

@ Joylene - are they .. cook stoves and used wood - that would make sense, as you've got a lot of wood.

No - I never got to watch Downton Abbey .. I expect I'll catch up sometime .. thanks for coming by!

@ Elise - well .. some of us would prefer not to be without one .. and surprisingly I'd say they make life easier ...

@ Sandie - did you .. interesting that at least you've picked up on the name ..

Yes - in the old days it was coal/anthracite fed .. now they use electricity or oil ... I'm sure though there are still some coal ones around ..

@ Susan - that I can definitely believe ... some things deserve long slow cooking - and porridge is one of those .. and an Aga is the perfect stove ...

@ Gary .. gosh you didn't wait til I posted Z before getting across here .. ?!

Well Lady Aga is a good thought - I think she'd be surprised .. mind you she is a Welsh lass isn't she ..

Do those friends in Cardigan have one - aren't they brilliant .. and oh yes .. laundry too .. we used to have a Victorian Kitchen Maid hanging from the kitchen ceiling ..

ah yes the ABC ... and upside down cake - loved your upside down typing ..

@ Don - well modern too - just slightly different .. but very good!

@ Janie - me too ... the Aga is such a wonderful oven to have in the home ..

@ Suzsnne .. glad you enjoy learning, the Aga is a great way to start!! ..

Cheers everyone and thanks for visiting .. Hilary

JoJo said...

Don't know if we had Aga stoves over here in the USA; I've never seen one.

Empty Nest Insider said...

I've also never heard of an Aga, but It's nice that you have so many wonderful childhood memories around it!

Julie

The Golden Eagle said...

I've never heard of an Aga before. Interesting--it sounds like an early precursor to today's stovetops.

Great pictures!

L.G. Smith said...

You've given us all a lesson in the Aga. Wouldn't it be great to find one of those for sale -- in someone's yard, not at an antique store. They'd charge a fortune for the sentimental value. :)

Ella said...

Hilary you are a great teacher~ I learn so much from your blog :D

Linda said...

A wonderful trip down memory lane. Thank you so much for sharing!

Deniz Bevan said...

Eek! Hilary, how did you know? I love Agas! I've always wanted one. I find them fascinating. Whatever happened to the one in your parents' house?

Lynda Schmeichel said...

I used to watch a lot of those British house renovations/hunting shows so I knew of an Aga, but I certainly didn't know all this. Thanks for sharing!

Chuck said...

Hilary, you find the most interesting stuff to post about. It would be cool to see one of those now that you have described it.

Don't suppose you still have one around do you?

Chuck at Apocalypse Now

Chase March said...

Never heard of an Aga before.

Did your use coal or wood?

Was it a chore to keep it stoked?

Interesting stuff.

Have fun with the A to Z!

Karen Tamara said...

I've never heard of one of these but I'd love to have one in my house just because it looks so neat. however, I think I'd be really intimidated by the idea of actually cooking something on it. Haha. I'm more of a microwave kinda girl. :)

Thanks for stopping by my new blog! It's so nice to see everyone again.

Carmen said...

I look forward to reading your blog! We could all use some nice positive readings!
Carmen

Patricia Stoltey said...

Hi Hilary -- I had not heard of the Aga, but it bears a resemblance to the old cooking stove my grandmother had back on the farm. brings back lovely memories.

scarlett clay said...

Yummm..tomatoes,mushrooms, and eggs. You've got my mouth watering for the wonderful English breakfasts I enjoyed last September. And I bet food tasted it's very best cooked in the old AGA stoves.

Marja said...

I didn't know about the Aga but I love the looks of it. It does look like an oven to huddle around and cook nice things on.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ JoJo .. recently they've been imported, but the Aga isn't a 'known' stove in the Americas.

@ Julie - the Agas always were/are the heart of the kitchen ..

@ GE - yes I'm not sure what a stove top is ... but they're excellent for colder climes.

@ Luanne - there are 2nd hand sellers here and the spare parts are prized .. so in England they're still around.

@ Ella - many thanks ..

@ Linda - good to meet you .. and thank you

@ Deniz - you and me alike! I was going to say the Aga is still in the house .. but who knows I expect it's been removed and something more modern has been put in ... it was only a 2 door Aga.

@ Chuck - nope I don't have one here, but my brother has one .. and other relatives have them. They're still very popular ...

@ Chase - it was anthracite (form of coal); but the modern ones run on electricity or gas ... and in the old days the boiler and the Aga had to be stoked every day! But that was what you did back just after the War and backwards ...

@ Karen Tamara - well if you're more of a microwave kind of girl .. then the Aga would probably stymie you!

@ Carmen - many thanks - good to meet you ...

@ Patricia - I'm sure the stove your grandmother had would be similar, especially as it was on the farm ... those memories are wonderful aren't they ...

@ Scarlett - the breakfast resonates bacon and sausages at me too! Did you have the full breakfast when you were over ... delicious! The food is always good out of the Aga ... and kept warm ..

@ Marja - the Dutch would have had Agas I'm sure ... but it was the heart of our home ...

Cheers everyone - lovely to meet new faces and see old friends .. Hilary

Rhonda said...

Never heard of an Aga before. Really amazing it was created by someone who couldn't see.

Rhonda @Laugh-Quotes.com
AtoZ #42

Lynn said...

I've never seen one of those. Congrats on doing the challenge again! (I bowed out for this year.)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Rhonda .. he was obviously very able - so presumably with 'help' and the wherewithall he could get someone to do things for him ...

@ Lynn .. I just enjoy the opportunity to do something different, but themed in ...

I can understand people opting out ..

Cheers Hilary

Patricia said...

I tried to get an AGA when I was building this house - too expensive and too hard on the environment was the reply...

So I settled on a professional range the first time and now a second professional range gas/convention combo from France a WOLF...
I love to cook and bake Bara in this new range.

Inger said...

I'm proud of this Swedish invention that warmed the kitchen of Great Britain for so many years. I've never seen one in Sweden though.

Helena Halme said...

Inger, you're so right! I never knew about Agas until I moved to Britain. Strange indeed.

Botanist said...

This brought back memories. My parent still have an Aga, and it seemed second nature to me to control the simmering of a pan by moving it further on or off the hot plate. Turning a knob seemed like cheating after that!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Patricia .. I don't know much about stoves - but I'd love an Aga .. and sorry the gods were against you having one. I know you love to cook .. and warm the breads ...

@ Inger - it's interesting that it's not known in Sweden .. I wonder why - because you can't miss them ..

@ Helena - and now someone from Finland saying they had never heard of them til they reached England .. good to see you here - thanks for coming by ..

@ Ian - ah memories of home .. for your parents it will have been a blessing this year with the weather. And I know turning the knob on a normal oven is a pain!

Thanks so much .. cheers Hilary

Madeleine Sara said...

We never had an Aga and I have never used one. I can see why it would be the heart of the home.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Madeleine .. those that have never had an Aga have really missed out! It's gorgeous ..

Cheers Hilary

C. Lee McKenzie said...

My great aunt had an Aga in her kitchen at what they called the Manor in Brize Norton. I loved watching her cook and I do remember hovering in the warmth of that old kitchen with its thick stone walls. Great memories.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Lee .. so pleased I brought those memories of your great aunt and her Aga back ... the farmhouse in Oxfordshire and the delicious homely meals served up .. in the glow of the Aga warmth ...

Cheers and thanks - Hilary

hyperCRYPTICal said...

We had an Aga gracing our kitchen when we lived in Pocklington - I aged 3-5 then - and I must admit my only memory of it is that of the tea towel drying on its rail.

Odd what we remember...

Anna :o]

Sara said...

Hilary -- I'm already behind. I always wondered about Agas. I read about them occasionally in my fiction books, but didn't know what they'd looked like or anything about. I don't think they're common in the states, are they?

Anyway, you're off to a great start and I'm off to the letter "B"

J.L. Campbell said...

Hi, Hilary,
Long time. I've read books that referred to Aga's, but was never able to quite picture them in my mind. I did figure out that they had to be huge stoves. Now I have a visual picture. Weird that I've never thought to look it up on the net.

Didn't know about bara as bread before the post above.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Anna - interesting history the village of Pocklington ... oh yes the tea towel and oven glove .. always at the ready ... they were always nearby ..

@ Sara - I read that Agas were being installed in New York 10 - 15 years ago .. but times have changed .. and now they're promoting them to China .. and they are on the come back.

You had ranges .. similar I guess - but not the eponymous Aga .. yet the Swedish folk don't remember them and they were invented in Sweden - it's a strange old world!!

@ JL - good to see you .. well at this post has opened a few people's eyes when they were reading novels - often now they're four door - which I have to say is the epitome of luxuriousness .. lots of choices!

Thanks to you three - lovely to see you .. cheers Hilary

Sue Travers said...

We had an AGA look-alike when I was a child. I loved it and was so disappointed when my parents gave it away in favour of a shiny new gas stove. I know it was tedious to keep stoked, but it was wonderful!

CMSmith said...

This was interesting, Hilary, and I'm nostalgic for many. I don't think we have them here, at least I never did.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Sue .. there are other varieties and in fact the Aga name has been taken over by Raeburn. The two coke engines we had at home .. the boiler and the Aga must have been time consuming .. but we had heat and hot water - though instant sometimes is lovely, but the warmth and loving glow from the stoking made up for the workload! So I agree .. but understand ...

@ Christine - you had similar the coal or wood ranges .. and they're now making inroads in the richer parts of the States - and colder climes.

Cheers to you both .. Hilary