Ameer Kotecha

The enduring appeal of the Aga

  • From Spectator Life
Image: Aga

A cooker is not just for cooking. That is the starting point to understanding the Aga.

It is impractical, environmentally unfriendly, and expensive. Everyone – including the Aga’s most ardent devotees – knows that. And yet the Aga cooker next year will celebrate its centenary. Despite all the modern appliances that should long ago have rendered it obsolete, these enamel-coated cast-iron behemoths continue to soldier on indefatigably. They are one of the twenty first century’s great survivors.

The brand has a glorious history. The Aga cooker was invented by a Nobel Prize-winning Swedish physicist. Having been blinded by an explosion from an earlier invention that went awry, he decided to turn his attention to designing something to help his wife in her daily toil. In later years, Douglas Scott, best known for his work on London’s classic Routemaster bus, worked on a tweaked Aga design. But no-one had more of an influence on the brand’s success than a young sales executive who in 1935 wrote ‘The Theory And Practise Of Selling The AGA Cooker‘. The New Standard Aga had just been launched, a British developed variation on the original Swedish product, and the manual was intended to help the company’s salespeople push the brand in the fledgling UK market. The pamphlet’s advice for success in selling door-to-door (‘Dress quietly and shave well. Do not wear a bowler hat’) worked wonders. The smart salesman went on to become the King of Madison Avenue and the ‘Father of Advertising’. Fifty years later Fortune magazine called David Ogilvy’s Aga pamphlet ‘the best sales manual ever written’.

They are a proud rebuke to the precision and science of much modern-day celebrity chef-led cooking

But, in 2021, why would anyone still want one? Aga cookers stay on constantly – 24 hour a day, 7 days a week – and use a corresponding amount of energy (though you can at least choose the fuel that suits you – natural gas, kerosene, diesel or electricity).

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