‘No need to weigh it separately,’ the woman in the apron says, pouring sugar rocks. ‘The bowl already acts as a scale—see.’
I’m standing next to the only man in the room. He’s handsome.
‘Once you reach the needed weight just press the home button again and read the next step on the panel here.’
One man, ten women, excluding the presenter.
‘One blade does it all. Whipping, mixing, and in this case grinding. This might be a little noisy.’ She pushes a button and though she warned us, the grating noise startles me. But it only lasts five seconds.
Dee-doo-dee: the machine let’s us know it is done. It sounds like the chimes before an airport announcement.
Almost half the women ooh as we are shown how the rocks have been ground effortlessly into fine powder. Almost half the others aah.
‘Your wife couldn’t make it?’ I ask the man softly, taking advantage of the pause in the presentation.
‘Excuse me? Oh, no, she’s busy.’
‘Nice of you to come in her place, use your Saturday and all.’
‘Now all we have to do is add the washed and halved lemons,’ the presenter carries on. ‘No need to peel them.’
‘You do any cooking too?’ I ask.
‘Sure,’ the man tells me.
‘Lucky wife you have. I’m the only cook in the family.’
At the touch of a button the machine jumps abruptly into action again, but with a softer sound, and for about ten seconds this time. The chimes again tells us it is done. Though identical, they now sound more like that off-key, somewhat disturbing arrangement from times past, when people still had land lines: Doo-da–dee: We’re sorry, there appears to be a receiver off the hook.
‘Lucky woman,’ I push on. ‘Are you going to buy her one?’
‘A kitchen robot? I don’t think so.’
The presenter pours lemonade into paper cups for us women and my male friend to try. ‘Of course this machine also cooks entire meals. It practically replaces your kitchen!’ She laughs, and I wonder if she always laughs that same way at this exact point in the script. ‘I’ll soon show you how to cook a main course, sauce and all, but let’s move straight to the best part: ice cream!’ Two-thirds of the women mumble in acknowledgement.
‘Bet she’d love it!’ I tell the man, after finishing my lemonade. ‘Make her life a whole lot easier.’
‘Wouldn’t in the slightest.’
‘Really? Machine like this? Haven’t you been watching? It prepares and cooks anything you can think of. Bakes bread and even makes cocktails. It’s incredible.’
‘Maybe, but I don’t like it. I was curious but it’s too impersonal. It removes the connection with food, it—’
The machine starts up again, zapping frozen fruit into a pulp. Dee-doo-daa.
‘It takes the fun out of cooking,’ he finishes. ‘I’d never put a soulless thing like that in the kitchen.’
‘But maybe she’d want one. Buy it for her.’
‘Of course you could.’
‘No, I literally couldn’t. I have no income. I mean, since I’m entirely in charge of the cooking, I could ask her to buy it for me, but as I said, I prefer my knives, pots and pans. In fact, I think I’ve seen enough. I should get going if I’m to prepare a proper dinner before she gets back from her business trip. Soufflés don’t make themselves, you know, and a proper Bourguignon takes several hours on a low heat.’
By EM Vireo