The beast in the kitchen - Diary of a Sussex Newbie

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I’d seen pictures of Agas in magazines; you could almost smell a home-made shepherd’s pie bubbling away within...

They looked homely and romantic and quintessentially British.

But my admiration had always been at arm’s length, being a city chick. None of my friends had an Aga. Never in a million years did I ever imagine I’d actually be living in the same home as one; let alone having to cook on one...

I remember first viewing the house and clocking the Aga, but we were so pre-occupied with The Admiral’s accommodation in the annexe, that the kitchen equipment was a bit of a blur.

On move day, by about 4pm, Devoted Doctor muttered something about being starving hungry and it was at this point that reality struck.

I surveyed the new domestic hub of the house and it dawned on me that there was no hob, and no oven.

Just ‘the beast’... It was like having a deep green smart car parked in the kitchen – magnificently beautiful and giving off an incredible amount of heat. It was majestic. I was going to have to cook supper on this the very next night and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.

Devoted Doctor said it would be a breeze and pointed airily at the each of the four doors – ‘this one’s for roasts, this one’s for slightly less heat, this one’s for baking I think, and this must be for keeping things warm’. I gingerly opened the one for baking and the wall of heat almost pushed me backwards.

Devoted Doctor was obviously not quite as familiar with Agas as he had thought. This was clearly the raging hot/singe your eyebrows off oven! There were also two large round hot plates on the top, ‘we just use them like a hob’ he muttered. This wasn’t like any hob I had seen before.

I googled Aga courses, but they seemed over fancy and focussed on complex recipes when all I wanted to do was learn the basics. Friends brought us a Mary Berry Aga cookbook which saved the day and explained what each of the ovens was for; good old Mary! Suffice to say the Aga slowly grew on me. There were some disasters and almost tears on one occasion – a birthday pudding that was incinerated.

It continued to intimidate me for weeks but through trial and error we have become friends. Throughout our first Winter here, people would gather around the Aga like moths to a flame; clinging on to the toasty warm rail.

The kitchen radiated heat around the centre of the house 24/7 and despite worries about oil costs, the Aga’s so efficient at heating that we could turn off the radiators in all the rooms near the kitchen.

Come Spring time, the general consensus was that the Aga would have to go off by the summer as it would make the house too hot.

So, a small oven and a hob were acquired, and the Aga was duly switched off on 1st May. I was shocked at how much I missed it; the handy warming oven, the ability to juggle countless cooking pots at once, and above all the toasty glow first thing in the morning that took the chill off the air when padding into the kitchen for that first cup of tea.

So, I suppose I’m a total convert. I’m not saying it was easy, but I can’t wait until 1st October, when it’s deemed sufficiently Autumnal enough for us to get the Beast back in action again...