There are those occasional mornings when we awake to discover that we’ve missed something: something trendy and important, something so good for us that it has the potential to transform our life on earth.
If you’ve overslept recently, you may have missed bone broth. It is exactly what the name implies—the bones of animals boiled until they break down and release nutrients and proteins. People are lining up for it in Manhattan, where chef Marco Canora opened a walk-up window called Brodo, which dispenses different types of bone broth in coffee cups. In the blink of an eye, it has captivated the country and become as chic as kale.
In culinary terms, bone broth is stock. It has been produced as the base for sauces for hundreds of years, or at least since Escoffier came along. In common lingo, it’s called bouillon, although the commercial varieties of bouillon don’t bear much resemblance to bone broth in terms of concentration and intensity.
The popularity of bone broth is traceable to the Paleo Diet, the latest in a series of wellness weight-loss programs. Also known as the caveman diet, the regimen is based on the foods that our ancestors may have eaten during the Paleolithic era that ended roughly 10,000 years ago. The theory of the Paleo Diet runs something like this: as hunter-gatherers, early humans subsisted on nuts, berries and lean meats; the agricultural period that followed led to the widespread consumption of dairy products, grains and legumes, none of which are good for us; the cycle culminated in the current epidemic of high-calorie, processed foods; to achieve health and balance, eat as the cavemen did.
At first glance, it seems reasonable enough. The Paleo Diet is gluten-free, since it excludes grains. Refined sugars are banned along with processed foods. Alcohol and coffee are forbidden, since the cavemen didn’t consume them, and salt is also not allowed.
Before you jump in to the Paleo Diet and start scouring the neighborhood for bone broth, however, consider this: The average life expectancy during the Paleolithic era was around 30 years. Medical care was unknown, of course, and the human species was very different—precisely because life was very different. Ask yourself whether you are a true hunter-gatherer (as opposed to someone who spends the day staring at a computer screen). We all have nostalgia for the past, but sometimes fantasizing about it is better than living like a caveman.
Mark Spivak is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History (Lyons Press, 2012) and Moonshine Nation (Lyons Press, 2014); for more information, go to amazon.com