Volume 26, Number 2


America is the all-you-can-eat
buffet, loaded with formerly foreign delicacies
deep fried and gentrified.
In this concrete temple decorated with lions and dragons
I contemplate a plate full of sushi named for California.
General Tso, who knew that armies wage war on the strength of their bellies,
fights for our side now, spreading his sticky sauce across the map.
The food fits in our mouths
easier than the words.
Masala means mix, (& so does shakshuka, & so does bi-bim-bap)
but if you say Butter Chicken instead, you won’t be looked down upon.
We like butter, and we like chicken, and we like eating
all the things we like all in one plate.
The sauces bleed over from one curry to the next, mixing
into one giant megasauce, unstoppable in flavor:
McDonalds serves the subcontinent McAloo Tikki burgers
& the Koreans make the best fried chicken
& the Japanese have fallen in love
with mayonnaise. They make it with rice wine vinegar.
You should see what they put on pizza: strawberries and seaweed salad
and little mini hotdogs embedded all around the crust.
This Thanksgiving we will make pilgrimage down the I-94
out to Jackson, a city
not known for abundance but nevertheless our nearest Old Country Buffet.
The one nearby has closed, much like the old country itself
but our traditions live on. Someone will slave
in the kitchen, but not us.
Our birthright is to eat the world.

—Simon Mermelstein