Erin Elizabeth Smith

In Watching an Old Episode of A Cook’s Tour


In 2002, America was afraid of everything–
a headed fish, the jumpsuit orange habanero,

fleshy hulls of sashimi. Before every strip mall
served edamame and green curried tilapia,

we thought cilantro was exotic, that dressing
came only in shakable bottles. We only knew

to fry chicken, not chocolate or frozen butter. 
Back then, we ate the spitting fajitas and loved them

Now everyone orders the spindly squid
in tempura batter and owns a bottle of hot sauce

they can’t pronounce. We eat the noodled pho
with chopsticks and covet the black crunch

of seared pork belly. Back in a world where Bourdain
grew giddy and wet-eyed at Tokyo fish markets

and Zimmern hadn’t drunk enough blood
to guess varietal, we made our macaroni

with Velveeta and drank Labatt. Then,
we didn’t even know about capers or wheatberries

or the way quinoa blossoms in stock. Our freezers
were not full of bone and celery leaf,

pillows of prawn and leek dumplings.
Now we wonder at the eggy taste of brain,

chew on the cheeks of smoked duck heads
and slurp the live oyster from its shell.

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