As soon as I had thrown down my fork next to a still-heaping plateful of orecchiette bolognese, Tina, my eccentric Italian host mother, whisked the dish away and replaced it with a piece of fish topped with capers and slices of lemon. Also on the table were several “contori” (side dishes), freshly-baked bread and a salad. Everything was doused in olive oil, steaming hot (minus the salad) and absolutely delicious.
“Tina!” I exclaimed, “How did you have time to make all this food?”
Tina does not speak English, but she somehow knew what I meant. She smiled in the same way my mother does when she has pulled off the seemingly impossible.
“Bimby,” she said, gazing reverently at the whirring machine, which spun and shook as though it were something out of Mrs. Weasley’s kitchen in the Burrow.
Its seemingly innocent gunmetal surface glistened in the soft light emanating from the chandelier. With a final chirping sound, the Bimby stilled. Tina rose, walked to the counter and pressed a button at the base of the contraption while simultaneously lighting her sixth cigarette of the day on a stove-top burner. With a hissing sound reminiscent of the release of a space shuttle door in “Star Wars,” the lid popped off. The room was immediately filled with the smell of cooked peaches.
“Marmellata?” Tina asked as she offered the preserves.
I was stunned. I could feel my heart racing in excitement but knew there was so much more to learn. I did not know enough Italian (read: none) to ask the right questions, but I needed to know: how had this entire meal come from the Bimby’s conical womb?
I woke early the next morning after a nearly sleepless night. I stole into the kitchen before Tina awoke to attempt to decipher the mysteries of my newfound obsession. There, next to the paper towels, sat the Bimby recipe guide and handbook. It was a well-worn volume with dog-eared pages, its cover depicting a family sitting harmoniously around a dinner table laden with an abundance of Bimby-produced foodstuffs: pasta dishes, canapés, soufflés, pizza, lamb chops, salads, baby food, even mixed beverages.
After an hour of reading with an Italian-English dictionary at my side, I began to understand: the Bimby is approximately one-third blender, one-third microwave and one-third magic. It is an Easy-Bake oven for grown-ups. For me, it is a second chance to own the contraption I never had as a little girl. I’m expecting my e-mail from the UPS store any day now.