Three years ago a married couple I know back home in Northern Ireland moved house. They swapped their maisonette for an old, charming semi-detached with a long, overgrown back garden. Since then they have renovated the house and transformed the jungle out back into a pretty, flower-filled plot with vegetable beds. They recently dug up their recent batch of new potatoes: beautiful, golden nuggets of nature’s goodness which, so I’m told, taste amazing. They have tried to harvest carrots with less success, however. They came out not as straight, fat veggies, but as corkscrewed, little piglet’s tails.
This couple also have a water butt attached to the downpipe from their shed, a bird table which welcomes doves, finches, robins, sparrows and blue tits all year round. They have a composter which collects their household waste and they recycle all their milk cartons and plastics. They are, I often joke, living the good life.
I thought of that same couple recently when I heard that AGA Rangemaster have carried out a survey into this very same lifestyle. According to the poll, a growing trend in the United Kingdom has seen homeowners change their shopping and cooking habits in increasingly profound ways. The survey makes for sobering, inspiring and exciting reading. In these economically difficult times, more and more families are embracing tried and tested strategies for reducing waste and saving money. More people are shopping at local stores and home-grown businesses, and less people are buying takeaways during the week, choosing instead to sit down for a meal as a family.
This is a subject that has always been close to my heart. Look back across my blogs and press releases and you should see that I have long championed the use of fresh ingredients. Read cookbooks such as mix. and veg. and you should find that I have been advocating simple ways of turning leftovers into tasty meals. This belief is partly informed by my experience of growing up on a farm, and seeing the joy and hardship that such a profession can bring, and partly from the experience of living as a student on a shoestring. Believe me, I learnt how to make that shoestring stretch pretty far.
It is heartening to see those interviewed speak in glowing terms about the presence of a range cooker cooker in the home. Many people really do describe it as the “heart” of the house, not only in a biological sense – it provides heat and lifeblood as a human heart does – but also as metaphor. Customers are quick to associate AGA’s with imagery of happy, contented families, chatting and eating in their kitchen. That isn’t just media spin, by the way, it’s actual fact. I’ve seen the effect that an AGA can have on a home firsthand.
But that’s almost secondary to the thought processes which the survey has fired off in my mind. As I have repeated ad infinitum (ad nauseum, you might say) I am extremely passionate about food. I was thinking about all that entails whilst demonstrating for AGA Rangemaster at the Leamington Food Festival this past weekend. It was fantastic to see dozens of stalls offering their wares to the enthusiastic public. All those people gobbling up pickles, wines, cheeses, chocolates or taking them home as gifts for their families.
The good life indeed.
Read the full research findings here.