Automated Dining

I hope I’m not the only person on the planet who cannot understand why dining at one’s home or apartment has to be so complicated. Personally, my favorite meal situation is when I am sitting on a large boulder near timberline looking at chipmunks and pine trees, while eating a sandwich, an orange and a candy bar. The flat part of the boulder makes for an adequate table. That is my idea of dining “out”. The act and process of preparing food, dining, and then cleaning up seems to entail too much work and too much equipment, like it was designed for the needs of a regiment of soldiers, or for a family on a large country estate in England which employs kitchen servants. 

Typically, a standard kitchen with cupboards, drawers and refrigerator includes redundant and special-purpose items. There are large knives, small knives, large-size stainlessware items for serving food, small spoons, forks and knives for personal dinnerware, tiny stainlessware for olives or cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving dinners; there are various sizes and shapes of pots and dishes, microwavable containers and refrigerator storage containers; there are table mats and napkins; there are scouring pads, sink drain cleaning chemicals, dishwasher and/or dishwashing soap, sponges (ranging in texture from smooth to multi-surfaced artificial pads for coarse scrubbing), metal polish, stainless steal pan cleaners, sink scrubbing powders or bricks, dishwashing gloves, storage racks, bins, drawers and cupboards. And there is food: Condiments, mayonnaise, salad dressing, olive oil, vinegar, jams, jellies, frozen foods, canned foods, microwaveable foods, fresh fruit, dried fruit, milk, diet drinks, cereals of many types, coffee or tea, alcoholic beverages. There is often wine or beer to help deal with the stress of dining.

At times, I have wondered whether food itself should be made simpler. In a gag, comedian Steve Martin once referred to an imaginary uni-food, a single substance that is all one would eat day and night, year after year. The simplicity of such an idea appeals to me. Above, I have depicted a future dining event involving seniors who eat either refurbished or uni-substance foods.

But seriously, I would be happier if the process of eating and cleaning up after a meal required as few steps as possible. Eating is, after all, simply a body function necessary for its maintenance.  If I could don some type of hat and suit that fed me, wiped my mouth, caught my crumbs and drools, I imagine I would be happy. Or, instead of having a dining suit, I would be happy having an automatic one-stop dining machine.

The illustration above shows a reasonably elegant, civilized-looking dining setup that simplifies at least some of the steps. The machine seats four.  It requires no more effort than tipping up the metal dining table – which doubles as a dish washing machine lid – when the meal is done. For this particular design to work, the dishware bottoms need magnets. I would want to study the effects of magnetism on food before I felt comfortable manufacturing and marketing my Easy-Tip Dishwashing Dining machine. What is the effect of strong magnets on food quality? Are the electrons rearranged, and if so in a good or bad way? I know for example that there are health claims made for products that enhance the quality of water when a water bottle is placed on a magnetic tray, or encircled by a flexible magnetic strip.

I have tried to think up different types of dining machines. This one, dubbed The Lonely Diner, conveniently co-locates many functions within a small space. Not shown is a pull-down computer keyboard for use with the combination TV-computer LCD screen. The Lonely Diner is designed primarily for stay-at-home, socially-inept, reclusive persons.

Other designs that might serve to integrate dining and dishwashing functions are shown above. The Kitchen Counterpart serves two individuals who eat off metal trays. When done, food scraps are tossed into a tabletop disposal, and the metal trays are folded up and slid inside the washing machine. The Tabletop Kitchen is a simpler, semi-portable design that can be placed anywhere in the kitchen. Grouped together and attached to this small appliance are water and drain hoses as well as TV, Ethernet and electric cables.

Making daily tasks more convenient is the primary criteria for many of my design efforts. The RotoTask Table Top and RotoTask Jr. are perfectly suited to the reality of lives increasingly full of distractions, which require constant tracking, juggling and multi-tasking. Often the act of eating is something we try to “fit into” our busy schedules if there is time. On the left, the tabletop rotates around a central hub containing a small dishwashing machine. Having the RotoTask appliance at home, a person can sit in one place all day, not having to search far for dishes, pans, pots, water, food, flowers, data, printer paper, pens or paper clips: everything is at hand!

Though the possibilities for various kinds of dining machines fascinate me, I need to consider that many families require a full kitchen and dining area that can serve multiple family members and friends. Moreover, most people have become dependent on and addicted to the modern belief in the need for a complicated kitchen. But if the kitchen, dinette, and dining room functions are considered an essential part of  “living” then at least the kitchen itself deserves an upgrade, one that better acknowledges modern needs! Mates might enjoy each other’s company yet find they learn little new information from each other by chatting everyday, at least less than they might learn from perusing or on the Internet.

A set of sliding divider panels could be incorporated into a narrow divider wall in a family dinette. It could include a sliding LCD screen for TV and Internet. If your mate’s conversation becomes painfully uninteresting, simply shut the sliding panel and go online!

Visit Steven M. Johnson at his website.

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Michaelpeets: I hope the existence of cereal and its availability is not your ONLY reason for getting up.
Some days, the existence of coffee and its availability is my only reason for getting up.
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My favorites are the Easy-Tip table, and Roto Task.

We do have "people chow". It's called cereal. It's my number one reason for getting up EVERY morning, and my evening meal as well at least once or twice a week!
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Sometimes I wish we just had People Chow, because I get tired of figuring out what I want to eat. My cats don't seem to mind eating the same thing all day every day.
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