The most essential appliance in the American kitchen has quickly become the microwave. This small but powerful machine keeps many American college students from starving, helps save working parents priceless time, and gives children the ability to make macaroni and cheese whenever they so desire. Even though food is universal the world over because humans live all across the world and all require food, the method by which it is cooked varies drastically. Although things might be simpler if everyone cooked their food the same way, it would not be as interesting and not be able to tell us as much about the culture in which the food is being prepared in.
If we had Franz Boas with us to talk about this widespread phenomenon with us, we could explore historical particularism with him. Two regions of the world may use microwaves in their everyday lives, but the reason why they integrated this technology may be completely different. The North American region may use the microwave because they invented the technology and it helps with their busy lifestyles. The region of Southeast Asia may use microwaves to conform to changing global standards and may be attempting to “modernize.” Regions such as Africa and South America may reject the use of microwaves in their everyday society for the same reason, such as the fact that they are impractical in a non-sedentary lifestyle. This gives us insight into the rationales of a culture.
Instead, if we were to view this from the perspective of a Cultural Evolutionist, there would be a very different approach. This Cultural Evolutionist would be sitting in an armchair and use their own culture as the standard though which to compare others to. Let us presume that this anthropologist is from the United States. Countries and cultures that have integrated advanced cooking technology like the microwave would be viewed as industrially developed and hence culturally superior. These cultures would be culturally superior to cultures that do not have microwaves at all or cultures that have not used the microwave as long as the United States has. While traditional, this approach is faulty because of the high bias behind it. This Cultural Evolutionist is not going out into the cultures and learning more about the people’s views and thoughts on the microwave. Instead, he or she is making a harsh judgment without all the information. They are especially missing that which could be attained by talking to the people of a culture.
With the diversity and specialty that there is in anthropology today, the relationship between cultures and microwaves could be viewed in almost an infinite number of ways. These are only two possible ways to look at this issue. Even though we can look at a culture as a whole, there is variation. More developed parts of Africa may have microwaves and perhaps some Americans refuse to use microwaves because of the decrease of culinary effect. Microwaved food is often soggy and diminished in taste. While the cultural relationship with the microwave is fascinating to ponder, making sure that people are getting and adequate amount of nourishment through food is more important.
— Micah O.