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Uwajimaya, aka The Waj, aka Waji Foods, is the Asian foods superstore directly across the street from my office. The Waj is far removed from your average grocery store in several respects, not the least of which is its bewildering array of imported snack foods made from squid. Seriously, there’s like a hundred. Then there’s the fact that no matter how many or few people are trying to buy groceries, you always wait in line the same amount of time, which means that they’re either extremely or not at all competent with queue theory. Given that I visit The Waj at least once a day, I’m sure I’ll be returning to these and other topics in the months to come, but just now I want to discuss the food court.

The bustling clatter of The Waj’s food court is a heterotopia if there ever was one. In less than half an acre you can find: Shiva BBQ (Korean); Hurfy’s (American / burger); Bubble Tea (Taiwan); Aloha Plates (Hawaiian); Thai Place (duh); several others I’m forgetting, all “representing” different Asian countries. All of the food is decent but not fantastic — a step above your average food court, but hardly four-star. What interests me most about the food court isn’t the food, but who is behind the counter. Even with my white-boy understanding of Asian ethnicity, it’s evident that the people preparing and selling the Foods of Many Lands by and large are not related to those foods genetically or culturally. My chicken katsu that I got for dinner from Aloha Plates was boxed up by (again, white-boy) a Chinese woman and sold by a Vietnamese man. The people who work in Thai Place are mostly Chinese and Japanese. As far as I can tell, The Waj doesn’t hire any non-Asians, but it seems that’s where their concern with race ends. Come to think of it, the now-defunct Saigon Cafe, where I used to get a $2 Vietnamese sandwich for lunch everyday before they went under, was owned and operated by people who I’m 99% sure spoke Chinese. Have we progressed beyond nationality? Does it matter? What would Foucault say, were he alive and in our presence? I want this on my desk by 9.

OK, I’ll mention one more thing about The Waj: I am strangely compelled to try a product called “Watering Kissmint” I always see by the checkout. So far I am strong in my resolve.

Posted in Musings.

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