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Today's Story by Camille Griep

Sparkle Ketchup doesn't exist

Kitchen Aid

In the summer of my 17th year, my parents, famous food critics, took the Maglev to New York for three weeks. The trip culminated with the launch of a new restaurant belonging to a celebrity chef. No more old fashioned molecular gastronomy; she’d be serving whole carrots again for the first time in half a century.

I was a boy who developed a taste for frozen fava bean foam and duck confit popsicles long before I learned about oatmeal or chips. And although my parents knew a lot about judging the taste and appearance of food, they knew nothing about its preparation. All my life we’d employed one of an interchangeable lineup of irritated kitchen help — Sally or Sarah or Seth.

So it was a surprise when, the day before they left, my parents handed the current chef a suitcase. With a vague apology, they shuffled cook and kitchen wares into the backseat of a Startaxi. They led me to the kitchen with crafty smiles and pointed to the corner.

The robot in front of me was molded in gleaming yellow plastic and stood almost six feet high. Her face was accented with upturned dents where her eyes and mouth should have been and bumps where her cheekbones and nose might have gone. Her human-shaped shell was highlighted at its apex by an orange, plastic flip of hair.

“What the hell is this?” I asked.

“Frank, meet Amelia, our new Kitchen Aide,” said my mother. The Kitchen Aide’s curved palm changed into a whisk and back again with a vaudevillian flourish.

“You got rid of Sarah?” I asked.

“It was Sally, honey,” my mother corrected.

“You never really liked Sally,” said my father.

“Yeah, but…”

“Amelia will make anything you’d like. Just ask her!” My mother grinned like a blue ribbon pie winner at the fair.

“I’m not hungry,” I said.


I didn’t have much faith in the Kitchen Aide.

For the first week, I ordered pizza every day. When the box dropped from the delivery-heli to the porch, she’d retrieve it, shoulders drooping. But, after a moment, she’d right herself and set the pizza front of me with a flourish, producing plate, fork, knife, spoon, and a napkin folded into a sea creature. By the end of the week, I felt like a jerk. I was a jerk.

During the second week, I produced a small list: cereal for breakfast, ham sandwich for lunch, and ramen for dinner. She couldn’t possibly mess those up.

When I came down to the breakfast table the following morning, there were twenty kinds of colorful cereal with milk and toast and butter and fruits and juices and coffee with heavy cream. It was better than any hotel buffet I’d ever seen. “Wow,” I said. The Kitchen Aide stood a little straighter.

At lunch, the cereal menagerie had been cleared away. A three layer ham sandwich with pickles and tomatoes and fluffy lettuce sat in the middle of a plate surrounded by cheeses and chips and crudites with dip. I ate all that I could before tottering off to the backyard to walk it off. “That was a sandwich,” I said. The Kitchen Aide — Amelia — nodded and hustled back to her charging and communications station in the corner.

She brought me dinner in front of the television, a broad bento box filled with cucumber salad and toasted rice balls. In the middle of the tray, a bowl of authentic ramen steamed with thick noodles, vegetables, herbs, and slices of pork. Not a moment ago, I’d still been full from lunch, but my stomach grumbled at the scent of the broth. “Mmmph,” I said, stuffing a rice ball in my mouth. Amelia might have made a fist pump, but I couldn’t be sure.


“You can make anything? Anything at all?” I asked the morning of the third week. Amelia nodded once. “Here are the things I’d like this week. You can make whatever you want the rest of the time.” I handed her a list:

Monday: Hot dogs with sparkle ketchup
Tuesday: Baklava
Wednesday: Salmon Wellington
Thursday: Baked Alaska
Friday: Boeuf Bourguignon

“Can you do it?” I asked? Her head jiggled up and down and she raced to her station. Sparkle ketchup! It didn’t exist.


On Monday night, a buffet of hot dogs awaited me on the counter. Pickles large and small and sweet and dill and relished. Mustards of all colors and consistencies. Balsamic ketchup, raspberry ketchup, and a clear sparkling gel that tasted just like Heinz. “How?” I demanded. Amelia’s whisk flew up to where her mouth might have been and twirled.

On Tuesday, I ate flaky, sweet baklava so tall I could barely get my teeth around it. On Wednesday, the live king salmon delivered to the kitchen entrance was served to me in a perfect pastry wrapping. Thursday after dinner, I unearthed an ice cream miracle deep inside warm, brown meringue.

On Friday, I sat with Amelia in the kitchen as she fussed over the range. I was babbling a one-way conversation when Amelia froze mid-stir. A loud beep sounded. She looked at me and held up her arm, now devoid of palm or whisk, then down into the bubbling pot.


In the bot closet I found a box labeled “Kitchen Aide.” Inside was a wrench and a few screws alongside a warning which read, “For HAZMAT emergencies only. Any malfunctioning KA must be sent back to the factory immediately. No exceptions.”

When I turned around, Amelia was behind me, clutching her dripping hand in a kitchen towel. She began to back away from me, head tilted downwards. A mixture of beef stock and hydraulic fluid leaked from the hand and her wrist. I reached up and held my hand out. “Stop,” I said.

I led her to the bathroom and sat her on the closed commode. I laid towels all over the floor. After pilfering a few parts from the Lawn Bot, I stopped the leak, replaced the fluid, and reattached her whisk hand. Both of us now covered in goop, she tested the switch. It wasn’t as fast as before, but the whisk spun without a hitch. She stood up and put both plastic arms on my shoulders and tilted her head at me. She pointed to the return warning on the manual. I threw it in the trash and ordered a pizza while she disposed of dinner.


“What did the Kitchen Aide make while we were gone?” asked my mother, as we sat down for their homecoming dinner.

“Do you know what’s wrong with the Lawn Bot?” asked my father, peering in the direction of the growling bot cabinet.

“Her name is Amelia,” I said.

“We ate some amazing things in New York,” said my mother, unfolding her napkin. “We might have to upgrade.”

On her way past the bot closet, Amelia made a tiny movement and the Lawn Bot fell silent.

“Amelia will make anything you like,” I said. “Just ask her!”

“We’ll see,” said my mother. “Pass the Boeuf Bourguignon?”


Camille Griep lives and writes in Seattle, Washington. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming at Used Furniture Review, Punchnel’s, Short, Fast, & Deadly, Commas & Colons, and On The Premises.


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