The roti less travelled … Rhik proffers the fruits of his loom. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian
The Rotimatic Rotimaker (£830, Rotimatic.com) is a complex unit comprising reservoirs, manipulative mechanisms and hot plate. Converts flour and water into cooked south-Asian flatbreads.
They run our factories, our democracies – now the robots are here for our wholemeal rotis.
“It’s about time robots help us eat better,” the box proclaims, with immense hubris. It’s the kind of statement surely followed by concessions such as: “Maybe we should do something nice for the angry robots,” and later still: “It’s time to accept the yoke of our mechanical overlords.” Whatever you think of humanity’s termination by genocidal cyborgs (very fine people on both sides), a roti robot makes you think. Flatbreads are ancient cooking: flour and water slapped on a hot rock. This box o’ tricks mixes flour, oil and water, kneads them into dough, rolls, cooks, and shoots them out of a letterbox. We’ve come so far.
Things, however, start badly: the machine can’t connect to my wifi, and I’m bamboozled by the arcane list of flours on the control panel. I select a program at random, pouring ingredients into three containers. It’s so noisy. Accelerations, sudden shearing, the creak of plastic and mechanical torque sound like the robot is trying to communicate something tortured. There are numerous error notifications. I peer through a hatch, into its guts. A dough ball is being spun, pressed and swept into another room. I lose sight of it, until the machine starts to shoot out crisp discs, one every two minutes. It is genuinely astonishing. And terrifying, when I’m informed the breads will get better, softer, as the machine learns.
An incredible timesaver then, but who for? Only people who make roti every day– ie Indian mothers, and given what I know about them, they are the last people who would use it. (“Why bother, when I can get up before dawn and do it myself?”) And there’s that distressing cacophony, which reminds you how many inaccessible moving parts Rotimatic must contain. To quote another Asian master, Thai Buddhist Ajan Chah: “If it is not broken today, it will break tomorrow. If it does not break tomorrow, it will break the day after tomorrow.” He was talking about human impermanence, and I have the feeling we’re staring it in the face.
I want my robot butler to have arms, legs and a disposition to reflex sass. Not look like a microwave.
Counter, drawer, back of the cupboard?
Roti Mc–Nope face. 3/5