Ramen of War
When avant-garde filmmaker Nick Zedd states that “war is menstrual envy” he could have been talking about Ramen Tatsunoya. My dining companion made a slip on the way to the restaurant and called it “Roman noodles” but this was more than a clumsy error. We forget that Pax Romana came at a terrible price of invasion, bloodshed and suppression. While we know that ramen was poverty food in post-war Japan and we pay lip service to the same terrible price the island nation had to pay for its peace and prosperity, we forget that Japan’s imperial ambitions were fueled by a society deeply rooted in hyper-masculinity. While there was nothing overtly phallic in my bowl of ramen, the rich, red miso broth was like a true picture of “war is hell”. The niggardly portion of roast pork floating in the rich broth were stunning in their ambiguity. On the one hand they alluded to hunger, but on the other, simultaneously made reference to the use of the pig or boar in heraldry and symbolism, nowhere as notable as in the use of the pig as a symbol of various far-right groups in France and Denmark.
However, the pig in Orwell’s Animal Farm is used to caricaturize the Soviet bureaucracy, and perhaps the small portions also allude to the desire to emasculate Bolshevism in the eyes of the Axis. My main regret is that they did not offer a curry ramen option. The symbolic image of Hideki Tojo and Subhar Chandra Bose wrestling naked in a pool of blood would make even the most skeptical cisgendered critics of Queer Theory have another glance. Of course, with penis obsessed Japan, one does not have to look far to find post-structuralist meaning. In some ways, the tiny portions of pork were a form of atonement, the masculinity of the boar yielding to the feminity of the noodles, and like Mr. Zedd, the red miso, as a symbol of the female reproductive cycle, bringing home the fact that as in Foucault, the “repressive hypothesis” is an illusion.