Now We’re Cooking With Gas!


Marie “Jenny” Fleurot and William Sugg the day before their wedding in 1871. Image from http://www.williamsugghistory.co.uk.

The first gas cookers went on sale during the 1830s and while there were some early adopters, for example, the kitchens at the Reform Club were fitted with gas cookers as early as 1838, most people carried on using solid fuel ranges. I am proposing Marie Jenny Sugg (1850-1919) as a food heroine for her promotion of gas cookery.

In 1890, when Mrs Sugg ‘s book, The Art of Cooking by Gas, was published gas cookers had become more common but the author felt that readers needed a bit of reassurance about the advantages of cooking with gas. In the introduction she wrote, … the economy of cooking by properly regulated gas is beyond question: and this economy is realized not only in the fuel saved but on the food itself, the nutritive properties of which are fully developed without waste. The cleanliness and convenience of gas as a fuel and the saving in time and labour, need only be once understood to be thoroughly appreciated, and those who adopt gas in the kitchen will find themselves free from all that trouble, dirt, and uncertainty in working which attend a coal kitchener.” (p.7)

Mrs Sugg’s promotion of gas cookers was far from disinterested. She had married into a family that ran a firm specializing in gas lighting, heating and cooking. Rather excitingly, Mrs Sugg met her husband, William Sugg (1832-1907), while he was visiting France on business during the Siege of Paris. The marriage produced 12 children and, after the birth of the last one, a cookery book.

Their great-grandson has set up a very informative website about the history of William Sugg & Co and for a more general history of the gas industry there is the Gas Museum in Leicester.

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