Sizzling Rice Soup

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may have arrived at tables
for reasons other than frugality,
abundance being a plausible
parent of creativity,

the freedom to overcook rice
then drop it in oil just to see
requiring that neither be scarce.
The signature shards — airy

yet resilient, crackling assertively
on encountering hot broth —
anchor performance and story,
what looks at first like loss

turning out to be a profound
discovery, as in the tale in which
a house burns down around
a man and his pet pig,

sparing the man, who reaches out
to the charred pig, instinctively
puts his burned hand in his mouth,
and happens upon the central meat

of a nascent cuisine. Who doesn’t
love a good legend with dinner?
But was invention ever so innocent?
Innovation thrives less on hunger

than on time and space, yet the romance
of a favored hole-in-the-wall clings,
especially one run by immigrants
whose tough versatility seems

the legacy of centuries,
as if no generation had stayed put
and none of this were voluntary,
the chicken slivers, water chestnuts,

mushrooms, snow peas, carrots all
the raw materials of circumstance,
whatever sojourners could corral
from alien terrain. That theory isn’t

wrong, but it overlooks the original
recipe, a concept shaped by millennia
and as many trials, in a crucible
that never intended diaspora.