At the age of 50, a time many men embarrass themselves with “boys and their toys” acquisitions designed to make them feel younger, -- a Porsche, say, or a speedboat or billboard-sized television -- I found myself on a plane, flying to France, about to buy an oven. It was something of an accident, really. One of those it-made-sense-at-the-time decisions that can only be understood within a context of the fiscal and physical madness known as “household improvement.”
We walked to a small restaurant called Accueil (French for “welcome”), which is just outside the Lacanche factory gate, and is patronized both by the company’s white- and blue-collar workers. He ordered us a pressed ham terrine, covered in aspic, and rabbit, braised in a mustard sauce -- simple Bourguignon food to him, but an exquisite treat for me. As we ate, Augagneur took a piece of paper, and began to sketch for me a quick history of cooking equipment and the domestication of fire.
Finally, in the 19th century, the French top, or “simmer plate,” was created. This cast iron surface was placed on top of the pot bellied stove, or coal- or fire-filled radiator. It defused heat, so the pot didn’t have to be constantly monitored and stirred to prevent its contents from burning. Today’s Lacanche ovens are still based on this age-old method of manipulating heat’s intensity around food. Lacanche ovens are smaller, and they surround and envelop whatever is being cooked, focussing heat there.