For years, I hated the term “military brat.” Why, oh why, did they call us brats? (And what, you might wonder, does this have to do with cauliflower soup?)Jump to Recipe
Brats, At Home and Abroad
Brats don’t follow rules … and many of us “brats” did follow them (most of the time)—and quite a lot of rules at that. After all, we lived in the homes of the most disciplined people I know—military members—who had rules for us, in places that had more rules—military bases—in military housing, which had … more rules. Housing was assigned, and we could not even choose our paint colors. For most of my elementary years, we lived in a pepto-bismol pink triplex. In Germany, our three-story complex that housed 18 families bore an unattractive but apparently camouflaging brown-mustard shade with chocolate balconies.
Ask any military kid who lived in such housing in Germany, and they’ll tell you about the creepy basement that housed laundry and storage with timed lights. No one wanted to be down there when the lights went out. The scariest occasions I recall from life in Germany were being roused from bed and evacuated because of a bomb threat. These were taken seriously, because in those days some military establishments were bombed, with resulting injuries and deaths.
On the upside, our housing complex backed up onto woods that were fun (and usually safe) to roam in … and a short walk from a small village that had an amazing bakery and a fun candy shop. When we weren’t roaming, we were building forts or playing ball. Come dinnertime, many of us occasionally discovered new foods.
About Cauliflower Soup
Cauliflower was not something my mother normally served, but she discovered this soup and made it for us. We loved it. If you’re thinking about cream of cauliflower soup, which appears to be a more traditional version, this is not that. When I was about 15, I tried French Onion Soup at a street cafe in Paris and understood the connection: French Onion Soup is the richer sister of Cauliflower Soup.
Making my version of cauliflower soup is so simple! I use a rice cooker on heat/simmer setting and with prep time it’s ready in under 20 minutes. It’s best with fresh cauliflower, but you can use frozen in a pinch. If you want a vegetarian version, you could use vegetable broth, but the flavor will be substantially different, because the broth is integral to the soup’s flavor. It’s gluten free, and if you use low sodium ingredients you’ve got a low sodium dish. It’s also low in carbohydrates.
As a kid who moved around a lot and who could not take much with me from base to base because of strict weight limits for moves, this soup brings back memories of my time in Germany. I’m told the housing we lived in is gone, as is the case for many of the places I lived. In Austin, Texas, the place I once called home is an airport! And although I can no longer set foot in my old homes, I can go back to Germany when I eat cauliflower soup and return to Austin when I eat fish and chips served in newspaper. Do you have a food that brings back a memory for you? I’d love to know about it—please leave a comment.
“Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.”—Mark Twain
- 4 C beef stock
- 1 head cauliflower chopped
- ½ to ¾ yellow onion finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 -3 bay leaves
- 1 tsp thyme leaves dried
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- Optional: gruyere cheese
- Pour beef stock into a stock pot, rice maker or instant pot. (Use a meaty-flavored vegetable stock for vegetarian version.)
- Chop cauliflower into florets and add to pot.
- Chop onion and mince garlic and add to pot.
- Add additional seasonings.
- Cook on medium high until soup reaches a boil, then simmer, stirring ocasionally. For rice cooker or instant pot, follow directions.
- Serve in soup bowls or cups and top with gruyere cheese if desired.