This year we’re experiencing an autumn like no other and many of us are turning to nature for solace. We’re lucky that the season brings with it a spectacular visual feast and the fact we can only go out to buy essentials or exercise means there’s little choice but to immerse ourselves in the great outdoors.
In the country we’re beyond fortunate, with an entire playground on our doorsteps, but the sheer joy of city parks is also not to be underestimated.
The great news is that nature is good for our souls. It’s perhaps no coincidence that the Nordic countries – where people totally embrace the great outdoors – consistently top quality of life studies. That brings me on to the subject of hygge which, while there’s no direct translation, essentially means cosiness and kinship. It’s been an on-and-off trend for quite a few years now, but this autumn it feels essential, so we need to find joy in the small things.
Throwing another log on the wood-burning stove, cooking up a gorgeous dish, going for an early morning walk and coming back to warm up by the AGA – all these tiny pleasures can soothe anxious minds.
Of course, there are few things as hygge as an AGA, which makes perfect sense as it was invented in Sweden by a Nobel Prize-winning physicist. That it has become such a quintessentially English icon shows, I think, how much we have in common with our Nordic neighbours.
For people across the globe, the AGA is more than just a cooker. Ask any owner why they love theirs and somewhere near the top of the list will be the fact it puts an indescribably lovely warmth into the kitchen. Not only does it make the kitchen into the snuggest place to be (perfect now so many of us are working from home) but it’s also brilliant for drying coats, gloves, hats and boots. It cooks utterly brilliantly, too, using gentle-to-food radiant heat, so is perfect for heartwarming dishes and lovely slow-cooked treats and looks utterly beautiful, so it’s easy to see why this most iconic of cookers has such enduring popularity.
Warmth and cosiness are imperative for wellbeing. Everything feels so much worse if you have to bear it while shivering. I love log burners. They offer a brilliant way of heating a small space while not having to turn on the entire heating system.
Not every home can have one, of course, but AGA has an ingenious solution to that – electric stoves. They have the same solid good looks as their wood-burning siblings, but operate on a normal plug socket and clever technology emulates dancing flames, so you get the look of a real fire as well as the warmth.
Another Scandinavian treat is indulging in fika, the Swedish art of making time for coffee (or tea) and something delicious to eat with friends, family or colleagues. I’ve spent many autumn weeks in Sweden and Denmark and can’t think of anywhere I’m happier. To conjure up that feeling all I need to do is make a latté and tuck into a delicious cinnamon bun.
Autumn to me also feels like a time of renewal. Perhaps it’s because I associate it with that ‘back to school’ feeling of fresh notebooks and new pencils, but there’s something essential, too, in the sound of leaves falling, symbolising out with the old, in with the new.
It’s around this time I start thinking about kitchen kit. In the run-up to Christmas I like to see what needs replacing and check out what’s new. When I buy kitchenalia, I like to know it will last. I strongly dislike fad-ish gadgets destined to end up gathering dust in a cupboard.
I like to know the cookware I buy will be useful for decades to come, which is why I was thrilled to see the gorgeous new cast-iron cookware AGA Cookshop has just launched. I love an investment piece and only buy cookware on the assumption it will last as long as I do, so these pans are completely perfect in every sense.
The buffet pan is super-versatile. You can use it make everything from cassoulet to those oh-so-comforting cinnamon buns and so I’ve already put one right at the top of my Christmas wish-list.
The AGA team has hugely missed being able to get together at AGA demonstrations and events, but we’re bringing a little of that spirit to our community via regular Zoom demonstrations and Instagram Live events.
We’ll be showing you how to cook up some delicious treats and chatting with interesting and inspiring people. We do hope you’ll join us...
Journal entry by Laura James.