Ethnic Microwaves

My Redneck Microwave

By Ruth Hong


"Rolls and Muffins".


Why in the world is there no button on my microwave for a "Curry", a "Fried Rice", or "Chow Mein", which almost every blessed North American has consumed?

I was heating up my leftover lunch of Pho (Vietnamese Beef Rice Noodle Soup, for those unfamiliar with the term), and was trying to figure out how much time was needed to get the stuff hot again. Usually, I make do with lukewarm food, since I have yet to figure out the physics of time in relation to the microwave. However, as always, I'm determined to make food as piping hot and delicious as when it was first served to me - for some reason, I've never learnt that it is simply impossible to recreate the original experience.

I digress.

I was heating up my food for lunch, wishing for a button I could press that said "Noodle soup", which would automatically turn my dismal leftovers into gourmet cuisine again, when it struck me. Microwaves do not provide an option for 'ethnic' food, despite the popularity of certain dishes worldwide.

Printed media is a blessing; how else could we, as a people, learn? On the other hand, what are we learning through the media? Even the few minute words that are on the Microwave could add to our consciousness. These few items are henceforth perceived as "typical" elements of the North American diet, particularly as the microwave exists in countless households.

Not to sound particularly extreme, but at one point, Hitler's manifesto, "Mein Kampf", had shared the same status as the Microwave does on this continent - it was a household element, that helped foster wide-spread, not to mention destructive, Anti-Semitism.

In the same way, something as "innocent" as the text on the buttons of a Microwave can be seen as another way in which cultures apart from the mainstream are marginalized in the consciousness of society at large, simply by rendering their elements invisible to view.

If something as commonplace as the Microwave renders the 'other' invisible, the question is, what other elements of our culture are doing exactly the same thing?

Culture surrounds us. We cannot escape it, as it is the fabric of our lives; it is the way any of us function in the world, since it offers us roles and practices to fall into. Most times, it is the small details that define the way we live our lives; how we behave as men and women; how we behave as employees and employers; how we behave as citizens. Dozens of tiny practices act as a behavioral code for us - that is part of culture.

The normative presence of Mein Kampf in Nazi German certainly contributed to the ease in which people slipped into the attitude of persecuting those who were different.

Is it not reasonable, therefore, to see something as commonplace as the Microwave acting as an alienating factor to those who do not behave as, or fit, the mainstream idea of "Normal"?

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