Food with a side of feelings
How my brother and I bond over cuisine
Hot steamy ramen. Noodles al dente. Broth so delicious I didn’t mind burning my tongue despite knowing it would be in pain for days. Pork chashu so tender it melted in my mouth.
My brother, a sophomore in college, and I were at Hironori Craft Ramen together this past summer. I had been at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for hours on end to take a 15-minute written test and to brighten up the day, we had reserved a spot at Hironori. It was my second time eating there but this time it was just my brother and me, not the whole family. We had a good time, laughing, talking and doing silly things while eating mouth-watering food. While this afternoon was particularly enjoyable, nothing like this would’ve happened five years ago.
Like most siblings, my brother and I bickered constantly growing up. We weren’t very close and had completely different friends due to our three-year age gap. Like many annoying younger siblings, I loved to meet my brother’s friends and always wanted to join them at the park or play video games with them. Later, I grew to have my own friends, which led to less dependency on my brother. Looking at it now, I think this gave him the space he needed for me to become more in his eyes than just an annoying shadow. People always told me that when I got older, my relationship with my brother would change, but I never believed them. It just seemed far too absurd for me.
Much to my surprise, what they said turned out to be true.
We both fell in love with cooking, mainly due to our mom, whose delicious dishes led us to appreciate food. At first, I was interested in baking. I’d spend hours in the kitchen trying new recipes — pound cake, banana bread, macarons. While my expertise was in sweets and pastries, my brother was experienced at cooking meat. My brother’s cooking craze started with cross country. After running miles and miles, he would get extremely hungry; his hunger would fuel his passion for food. That was when he started experimenting with food himself such as pesto fried fish and other meats.
One day, after school, I came home to my brother preparing ingredients for fried chicken 一 buttermilk, flour, salt, garlic powder, ground pepper, chili powder and of course, chicken. We spent the whole week experimenting, trying different styles to see which tasted the best. The first day, the crust was a bit bland, so the next day we added more salt. Then, the day after that, we added more spice. Finally, we decided to double-dip the batter to have a thicker coating. At first, the process was frustrating and tedious, but as we kept doing slight modifications, the chicken got better and better. By the end of our week-long experiment, we could make tasty fried chicken in harmony. During the process, my brother and I let down our guards and cooked as one team.
“You’re the sous chef,” my brother said to me.
“Nope, we’re co-head chefs,” I replied.
We both love fried chicken, but since it’s a very American dish, we had never had it at home before as we typically had Indian food on a daily basis. American food was my opportunity to bring something new to the table for our parents from American culture. It meant more to my brother and me than my parents because we grew up with it. It was one of the few times my parents were learning a recipe from my brother and me instead of the other way around.
My brother and I were both in cross country for one overlapping year, during which we would drive home from cross country practice together and occasionally go out for food. Our popcorn chicken escapades to Quickly’s instantly became my favorite: enjoying the snack with my brother knowing that my mom would disapprove of our unhealthy choice gave me a rush of adrenaline. Now that my brother is in college, our spontaneous excursions to Quickly’s have come to an end. But sometimes, I’ll bike to Quickly’s, or have my parents take me there for popcorn chicken to remind myself of the countless memories I made with my brother.
Now, my brother sends me pictures of the steaks he makes in his college apartment. As we transition from pasta to chicken to steak, our cooking skills are improving over time and so has our relationship. We call each other from states apart and talk about grilling asparagus and there’s nothing more I could want. Now that he’s in college, I don’t get to spend nearly as much time with him as I used to, so when he comes home, we make sure to enjoy it. Who knows what we’ll be capable of making together and this year, that’s what I’m thankful for.