The Marrow of Life:
Bone Broth


When my grandmother used to cook for us…

We got them in the morning for warmth in the winter and to stave off the flu, for postpartum fatigue and growing strong in adolescence. For the pain of old age and the challenges of youth. Basically, always!

That’s all a thing of the past. And perhaps the growing vegan community was the first to pep up opportunists’ ever-lasting circulation: bone broths as the ultimate means of regeneration. And there you have it. Bone broth’s a superfood.

Here I don’t have in mind the cute, colorful cubes on the shelf featuring a happy chicken or smiling cattle.  These aberrations of the food industry, full of glutamate, artificial aromas and hydrogenated fat, have attempted to standardize the flavor of our food for over two generations.

Homemade bone broths, however, are bonafide elixirs!

Preparing them requires patience. Sometimes the bones have to simmer for days, but their health benefits are mighty rewarding. Bones are chock full of minerals and protein. They also have collagen fibers, including gelatin, and other substances such as hyaluronic acid. Ultimately, bones have to be able to carry the body’s weight. That’s why they’re a warehouse of substance and solidity. Every flaw in the delicate interplay of nutrition and life style is reflected in the bones. The same goes for animals, too. Lack of movement leads to a decline in their stabilizing capacity. Dietary deficiencies cause premature brittleness. Pregnancy and aging also take away from bone mass and stability. At the latest when our teeth fall out we discover that they, too, are part of our bone structure, serving as a diary of our changing lives. So in order to replenish ourselves with proper nutrition and good resolutions it’s up to us care about the animals having had  a good life before using their bones.

The hours go by in our pot, the broth simmering slowly. The animal smell is strange at first. The kitchen is warm, moist, suffused by the scent of thyme and bay leaf. In Thailand shrimp and green onion are added. Vietnam adds star anise and cinnamon. In the U.S. it’s tomatoes and sugar with egg noodles. At an Italian restaurant, egg yolk and peas. There’s always the smell, evoking childhood memories or thoughts of vacations past.

The ingredients of a good, authentic bone broth bolster our reserves. Collagen fibers protect our cartilage from premature degeneration. The proteins they contain do not often appear in our diet: glucosamine, for example, serves to regenerate muscles and defend the body. Hyaluronic acid and chondroitin are in the mix, too. The collagen fibers bone broth turns into jelly seem to be able to line intestinal mucosa, allowing people with allergies or intestinal disease, such as Chron’s disease or “leaky gut syndrome,” to recover much more quickly. Potassium carbonate buffers our blood, has been demonstrated to prevent gastritis while decreasing the risk of high blood pressure. The interaction of the minerals and fibers in the broth further has a synergetic effect, making the absorption of all the other uncommon elements easier.

I have to admit that while researching I began to think that life without bone broth is dangerous, that the alchemical simmering of animal remains could save my health – that the fibers fill out my lips and pad my bottom – similar to Portuguese donkey penis soup and South American testicle soup, enjoyed in the hope that what one eats will find its way to the right spot.

But let’s leave it at this: these soups are highly invigorating. And they’re a solid go-to in states of weakness as a preventative measure.

Cooking Tip:

Bones in the pot, low heat, lots of time. Simmer for 4-8, let’s make it 16-32 hours. Don’t add salt! Simmer until the bones are soft. If you want to make bone broth with marrowbones, which are full of extra minerals and are excellent for blood cell formation, brown them before using. The remains of a rotisserie chicken can be used for broth. The “Jewish penicillin,” they get rid of coughing and sneezing, especially when wished upon you by others.

A bit of magic factors in as well, so imbue the bone broth with the feeling of an alchemical power-boosting ritual like the druids once performed. Didn’t we all dream of falling into the magic potion as kids?

Yet bone broth is not a cure-all. It won’t relieve us of all our worries and mistakes, but it does show a trend toward simplicity. After the fad of cold, color-happy, rainforest-themed smoothie recipes, it’s on to hot, amber-colored clarity. If you make it yourself, it’s always low-cost and a terrific starting point for a meal with friends – the real elixir of life.


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