Cooking with Bimby: food practices, competences and kitchen technologies
Institute of Social Sciences University of Lisbon Lisbon, Portugal
The Worwek?s webpage (a German company of kitchenware) proudly announces that every two minutes one Bimby is sold somewhere in the world. Bimby (also known as Thermomix) is a kitchen robot that promises to revolutionise the way we cook, learn about cooking, coordinate and time plan our food practices at home. It is a pricey multi-functional food processor, cooker, steamer and self-cleaner. In Portugal, despite the current economic crisis, 3945 of these robots were sold last December and current numbers indicate that there are around 80000 people in the country with one of these machines in their kitchens (Diário de Notícias, 11th January 2009). In 2008, there were 28500 new clients and increasing media coverage is likely to contribute to disseminate further this new fad. Renowned Portuguese chefs also endorse it and are often seen in TV programmes with one of these machines praising its time saving and convenience qualities.
The robot cannot be purchased in shops, it being directly sold by sales representatives that make a demonstration in future clients? houses. These are usually social events where the host invites friends and family for a free meal produced in the blink of an eye by the robot, and in the presence of the marketer. Thus, these events mix economic and social elements, domestic and market spheres. The restricted circulation of this commodity makes it a very appealing object of material consumption, it being attached to signs of distinction, differentiation and ?good taste? (also reinforced by its sleek contemporary design). In a time where concerns are raising about the demise of cooking skills, this machine is being heralded in the media and in several internet forums crammed with Bimby enthusiasts (self-named ?bimbólicos?) as a ?magic? gadget that turns dreadful cooks into notable ?chefs?. Drawing on empirical work on the uses of Bimby through the analyses of internet forums and interviews with practitioners this paper aims at reflecting about this kitchen gadget from a practice perspective. It will look specifically at appropriation and use, time coordination and routines, gender division of food work, cooking competences, meanings and engagements regarding this technology.