“So do you guys talk a lot?” My brother’s co-worker asks us expectantly, clearly impressed that we are in the same room together so willingly.
I exchange glances with Richard, who is seated across from me. “Err… well… not really.” I say finally.
I know how it sounds. Like we have one of those forced sibling relationships – one that involves curt and stilted conversations every few months or, worse, handshakes instead of hugs.
She starts to look away, and I scramble to think of how to explain why our lack of communication is actually a good thing.
“But we don’t need to talk!” I pipe up in Richard and my defense. “We are there for the important stuff – he came out to LA to take me to dinner for my birthday, I flew out to Phoenix for this…” I continue, making a sweeping gesture at the Christmas party taking place around us at my brother’s house.
She tosses me an envious smile. “I wish my brother and I were closer.”
I nod in understanding – knowing fully well what that feels like. Richard and I actually weren’t close until the end of my sophomore year of college, and I spent most of my childhood finding him repulsive (when I wasn’t scratching his arms until they bled). In turn, he would alternate between calling me unbecoming nicknames like “stinky” and completely ignoring my existence. Given my vicious tendencies, I don’t blame him for either offense.
Today, I consider my brother like a best friend – except without the drama/fights over whose butt is bigger (mine). Our relationship is effortless and uncomplicated. It doesn’t need a lot of grooming or attention like endless phone conversations about what we did that day, or constant e-mails concerning what we just ate.
What sustains our relationship is the mutual understanding that we will always be there for each other. Everything else is beside the point.
This recipe for broccoli soup that my brother taught me how to make this weekend is, in many ways, symbolic of that relationship. The soup is perfect in its simplicity – clean, unfettered, yet dense with flavor. It contains only four ingredients, but nothing additional is necessary to make it a satisfying meal. It is good without cream or butter or the typically essential garlic.
When I arrived home at my apartment last night after my wonderful weekend in Phoenix with my brother, I couldn’t wait to make this soup for my dinner. It went together in less than 30 minutes and tasted almost as good as when Richard made it the previous night for the holiday party. The hearty soup made me feel close to him again and was another reminder that he’s there for me even when he’s not in the room.
Or, in our case, even when he’s not reachable by phone, email, text, Facebook, or Twitter.
Simple Broccoli Soup
1 extra-large head of broccoli, chopped into florets
½ brown onion, diced
2 cups hot water
1 vegetable bouillon cube
Sauté onion in a large pot for 5-10 minutes or until tender and slightly caramelized. Season with pepper. Add two cups hot water, the vegetable bouillon cube and broccoli florets. Cover and simmer together until broccoli is tender enough to puree – approximately 8-10 minutes.
Remove from heat and puree using either an immersion blender or blender until smooth. Add additional liquid (water) if necessary to thin it out. Return to stove and heat through until just under boiling. Serve immediately, or simmer until ready to eat. Sprinkle with additional pepper to taste.