the measure of wealth

my family has always used
fourteen-ounce tins
emptied and cleaned of
their condensed milk contents
as the measuring device of choice
when scooping grains of rice
to be cooked for family meals

I grew up never questioning this
learned how much water to add
based on the number of cans
and not cups being prepared
assumed we recycled from the need
for an immigrant family to be frugal

but this practice started before we arrived
when a recovering country’s economy
was based on fourteen-ounce tins
of jasmine rice that could be bartered
for other goods and services
or traded in large quantities for gold

need has long since turned to habit
but tin usage continues as a reminder
of our past and current fortunes
and is a tradition I will maintain
explaining to any who ask, why I
do not measure my rice in cups

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