Sometimes you just have to buy new. About 6 years ago, I was a member of the European Compact, a group that had vowed not to buy anything new for a year, excepting underwear & a few other items. By and large I didn’t find this too difficult, as it’s the way I choose to live anyway, for ethical reasons as well as pure financial common sense, but when my faithful 15 year old Cannon cooker died, I hit the buffers bigtime. It was followed a succession of Freecycled cookers which just didn’t cut the mustard for a big family at all, starting with a big dual-fuel range cooker that was only half working; I knew it had blown an oven element, but what I didn’t know was that it would almost instantly blow the element I bought to replace it, then a second one a week later. So that went, to be followed by a more modern looking, slightly smaller range with one giant oven. This did work but was wildly uneconomical to run, as try as I might I wasn’t organised enough to fill the oven every time I needed it, and I didn’t like the ceramic hob either. So that was Freecycled onwards, to be replaced by a tiny 50cm cooker, which I thought would be cheaper to run. But sadly I couldn’t fit my saucepans on the hob, so had to cook things in succession & heat them up again to serve, thus using more fuel… eventually I cracked, confessed all to my fellow-Compact members & bought a new modern-style range cooker, “A” rated for efficiency, the cheapest I could find. It didn’t have a couple of features I would have liked but I decided I’d be able to cope without them; it was the best available “fit” within the budget I’d set myself.
It was a classic example of a false economy. The dratted thing broke down majorly twice and had to be professionally mended at a cost of £200+ each time, including parts. If we were going out for the day, someone had to stay in all the time to turn it on at the appropriate hour, as it didn’t have an automatic oven. One by one the gas hobs clogged up beyond my ability to clean them out again, and stopped working altogether (I was down to 2 out of 5 by the end) and the pretty shiny black glass doors showed every splash & fingerprint. When this one too started to blow elements on a regular basis, I realised that it had 4 separate problems & the bill for repair this time would more than likely add up to more than I paid for the flimmin’ thing to start with. It did have some very good features, notably the tall slim oven at the side, which heated up very fast & continued to work all the way through, though it had taken me a while to collect up casseroles, tins & dishes that fitted it, but at the end of the day it just wasn’t up to the job of serious cooking for plenty of people.
So this time I splurged every last penny on a Rangemaster, which I’m hoping will last at least as long as our original Cannon. I was sent to a specific shop, Spillers of Chard, 50 miles away by our local electrical suppliers, Holmans, who have always done me proud but couldn’t match the prices that Spillers can get, as they don’t do anything BUT range cookers. You have to wait for them to build your cooker, and then we had a couple of glitches with the installation process that meant it was two months from ordering to my cooker being installed. And here I would like to give a big pat on the back to Spillers, who have gone above & beyond the call of duty & agreed to refund me a charge for an independent gas engineer to eventually connect it. I’d encourage anyone considering buying a range cooker to consider them before the online-only stores that can match their prices, because the after-sales service has been superb; nothing has been too much trouble & they have stayed in touch without being prompted. I’m planning a return visit soon to stock up on bits & bobs like spare oven shelves & baking tins specifically to fit the ovens, as a transport-free friend needs to visit another shop in Chard, and I’d like to thank them in person.
I’m mentioning this because this week we had to make literally VAST quantities of cake, 300+ servings. Sadly it was for a funeral, for a dear friend who died far too young and far too quickly. And the Rangemaster showed its quality by coping with 3 cooks filling both ovens, turn & turn about, temperatures going up & down as needed, over the course of about 18 hours, because I didn’t have any freezer space free to store pre-cooked cakes! At the same time I was also cooking up vast batches of Two-Quince Marmalade and Apple Butter on the hob, using two BIG preserving pans, and sterilising jars & lids in the ovens between batches of cake. Well-impressed here, and just wanting to repeat that sometimes, it pays to spend more and invest in the right tools for the job when you need them; let’s see if I can manage to remember this myself next time I need to replace something vital!