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Robots and automation once again have become very popular, introducing for example cooking robots.

What would be the earliest reference to an advanced appliance for either cooking or eating?

My two examples:

  • Billow Feeding Machine in Modern Times (1936)
  • Iron Chancellor by R. Silverberg (1958)
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From 1925 or maybe 1911: the "scientific restaurants" in the 1925 novel Ralph 124C 41+: A Romance of the Year 2660 by Hugo Gernsback. It was originally serialized in Gernsback's Modern Electrics magazine in 1911–1912, which I have not seen. The excerpt below is from the Project Gutenberg etext of the 1950 second edition.

When it neared noon Ralph escorted his companion to a luxurious eating place, which across its entrance bore the name Scienticafé. "This is one of our best restaurants, and I think you will prefer it to the old-fashioned masticating places," he told her.

As they entered, a deliciously perfumed, yet invigorating fragrance greeted them.

They proceeded at once to the Appetizer, which was a large room, hermetically closed, in which sat several hundred people, reading or talking.

The two sat down on leather-upholstered chairs and looked at a humorous daily magazine which was projected upon a white wall, the pages of the magazine changing from time to time.

They had been in the room but a few minutes when Alice exclaimed:

"I am ravenously hungry and I was not hungry at all when we entered. What kind of a trick is it?"

"This is the Appetizer," Ralph exclaimed laughing, "the air in here is invigorating, being charged with several harmless gases for the purpose of giving you an appetite before you eat—hence its name!"

Both then proceeded to the main eating salon, which was beautifully decorated in white and gold. There were no attendants and no waiters, and the salon was very quiet except for a muffled, far-off, murmuring music.

They then sat down at a table on which were mounted complicated silver boards with odd buttons and pushes and slides. There was such a board for each patron. From the top of the board a flexible tube hung down to which one fastened a silver mouthpiece, that one took out of a disinfecting solution, attached to the board. The bill of fare was engraved in the board and there was a pointer which one moved up and down the various food items and stopped in front of the one selected. The silver mouthpiece was then placed in the mouth and one pressed upon a red button. The liquid food which one selected would then begin to flow into the mouth, its rate of speed controlled by the red button. If spices, salt or pepper were wanted, there was a button for each one which merely had to be pressed till the food was as palatable as wanted. Another button controlled the temperature of the food.

Meats, vegetables, and other eatables, were all liquefied and were prepared with utmost skill to make them palatable. When changing from one food to another the flexible tube, including the mouthpiece, were rinsed out with hot water, but the water did not flow out of the mouthpiece. The opening of the latter closed automatically during the rinsing and opened as soon as the process was terminated.

While eating they reclined in the comfortably upholstered leather arm-chair. They did not have to use knife and fork, as was the custom in former centuries. Eating had become a pleasure.

"Do you know," said Ralph, "it took people a long time to accept the scientific restaurants.

"At first they did not succeed. Humanity had been masticating for thousands of years and it was hard to overcome the inherited habit.

"However, people soon found out that scientific foods prepared in a palatable manner in liquid form were not only far more digestible and better for the stomach, but they also did away almost entirely with indigestion, dyspepsia, and other ills, and people began to get stronger and more vigorous.

"The scientific restaurants furnished only foods which were nourishing and no dishes hard to digest could be had at all. Therein lay the success of the new idea.

"People at first did not favor the idea because the new way of eating did not seem as aesthetic as the old and seemed also at first devoid of the pleasures of the old way of eating. They regarded it with a suspicion similar to a 20th century European observing a Chinaman using his chopsticks. This aversion, however, soon wore off as people became used to the new mode of eating, and it is thought that the close of the century will witness the closing of all old-fashioned restaurants.

"You will notice, however, that the liquid scientific foods are not absolutely liquid. Some of them, especially meats, have been prepared in such a manner that slight mastication is always necessary. This naturally does away with the monotony of swallowing liquids all the time and makes the food more desirable."

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I am not sure this answers your question, but nevertheless, Baron Munchausen during his second trip to the Moon, ca 1780, observed that

As to the natives of the moon, none of them are less in stature than thirty-six feet: they are not called the human species, but the cooking animals, for they all dress their food by fire, as we do, but lose not time at their meals, as they open their left side, and place the whole quantity at once in their stomach, then shut it again till the same day in the next month; for they never indulge themselves with food more than twelve times a year, or once a month.

Looks extremely advanced to me.

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  • Interesting find, but is this an appliance or just an alien creature whose metabolism is different from ours? – Rand al'Thor May 17 at 8:02

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