Leading article: Country cooking

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It has long been tempting to see the Aga as a microcosm of the fortunes of the City. Sales fell as the recession took hold; then started to pick up again in the second half of last year.

Bankers' bonuses don't just pay for houses, they pay for the high-status equipment to go in them, and the status symbol to cap them all was the Aga. So desirable was this cast-iron stove deemed to be that it even made the unlikely transition from country back to town.

Whether or not the Aga's revival is sustained, however, may depend less on future ban bonuses and more on its capacity to compete. The range-style cooker is now becoming a fixture in almost any kitchen that can squeeze one in. The less we cook at home, the more space we need for the apparatus not to cook on. Somewhere in every Briton's heart, it seems, the country kitchen occupies a special place. As range-cookers go mass market, Aga may have to settle for imitation being the sincerest form of flattery.

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