"I have been a soreheaded occupant of a file drawer labeled 'Science Fiction' and I would like out, particularly since so many serious critics regularly mistake the drawer for a urinal."
- Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
||Electric-Automatic Household Robot Cook
||A robot chef - an Electric-Automatic Household Beneficent Genius!
The earliest description of a robotic cook or chef that I know about.
| The return mail brought me a reply stating that two Electric-Automatic Household Beneficent Geniuses had been shipped me by express. The letter enclosed a pamphlet that gave a more particular account of the E. A. H. B. G. than the circulars contained. My friend’s invention was shaped in the likeness of the human figure, with body, head, arms, legs, hands and feet. It was clad in waterproof cloth, with a hood of the same to protect the head, and was shod with felt. The trunk contained the wheels and springs, and in the head was fixed the electric battery. The face, of bisque, was described as possessing “a very natural and pleasing expression.”
I opened the oblong box, where lay the automatons side by side, their hands placidly folded upon their waterproof breasts, and their eyes looking placidly expectant from under their waterproof hoods.
“Now, which is Bridget, and which is Juliana — which the cook, and which the housemaid?”
This distinction was made clear by dial-plates and indicators, set conspicuously between the shoulders, an opening being cut in the waterproof for that purpose. The housemaid’s dial-plate was stamped around the circumference with the words: Bed, Broom, Duster, Door-bell, Dining-room Service, Parlor Service, etc. In like manner, the cook’s dial-plate bore the words that pertained to her department...
At this point a wild shout of mingled exultation, amazement and terror arose from below, and we hastened down-stall’s to find our son John hugging his elbows and capering frantically in front of the kitchen-door, where the electric cook was stirring empty nothing in a pan, with a zeal worthy a dozen eggs.
My eldest hopeful, impelled by that spirit of enterprise and audacity characteristic of nine-year-old boys, had ventured to experiment with the kitchen automaton, and by sheer accident had effected a working connection between the battery and the indicator, and the machine, in “going off,” had given the boy a blow that made him feel, as he expressed it, “like a funny-bone all over.”
“And served you right!” cried I. The thing was set for an hour and a half of work, according to the showing of the dial-plate, and no chance to stop it before I must leave for my office. Had the materials been supplied, we might have had breakfast; but, remembering the red-lettered “Caution,” we dared not supply materials while that indefatigable spoon was gyrating in the empty pan.
“My dear,” I sighed, “there’s no way to stop it. We’ll have to wait for the works to run down. I must call Harrison’s attention to this defect. He ought to provide some sort of brake.”
I now discovered that I was hungry. “If that Fiend in the kitchen were only at work about something substantial, instead of whipping the air into imaginary omelettes!” I groaned.
“Never mind,” said my wife; “I’ve a pot of coffee on the kerosene stove.”
Bless her! She was worth a thousand Beneficent Geniuses, and so I told her.
|From Ely's Automatic Housemaid,
by Elizabeth Bellamy.
Published by The Black Cat in 1899
Additional resources -
Compare to the robot chef from Anthony Boucher's 1943 story Robinc, the robot cook from Lester del Rey's 1938 Helen O'Loy and to the automated restaurant from Edgar Rice Burrough's 1912 Princess of Mars.
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