2015 Bone broth trend takes hold

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As Jill Hogan wrote in The Canberra Times: “If you look at lists of the atrocities of 2014, you will see three standouts: Ebola, missing planes and the paleo diet.” Although it had been around since 2002, the paleo diet really took hold in Australia in 2015 after a chef, Pete Evans, published his first book on the subject in December 2014. Among the staples of this primitive way of eating was bone broth.

Bone broth wasn’t exactly a new idea. Various cultures around the world have been making broth from meat and bones for thousands of years. We’ve called it stock, boullion or simply broth. However, the advocates of the paleo version emphasise the need to cook the bones for up to 24 hours with an acid component such as vinegar, thus extracting collagen, amino acids and minerals from the connective tissue. This, they say, has significant health benefits including an anti-ageing effect, improving gut health, supporting immune function, improving joint function and promoting healthy sleep.

Unfortunately, there is little research on bone broth itself to back up these claims, although there have been some studies demonstrating the therapeutic effects of the substances it contains. I did find one study that showed broth cooked for eight hours did reduce inflammation associated with ulcerative colitis – in mice.

There have been controversies. Pete Evans’s suggestion that bone broth could replace breast milk for babies caused outrage from medical authorities. His recipe for older babies, which used liver in the broth, was branded as dangerous by the Infant Nutrition Council which said:

The “Happy Tummy Brew” developed by the authors of the book Bubba Yum Yum: The Paleo Way as an alternative to commercial formula for infants from 6 -12 months does not meet the Food Standards Code’s requirements in a number of ingredients and contains dangerously high levels of Vitamin A. As such it is not safe for infants up to 12 months of age.

Similarly controversial was publicity for actor Gwyneth Paltrow’s eating regime of black coffee for breakfast and bone broth for lunch. (Although this was probably less disturbing than some of her other weird wellness tips – sound baths for example.)

Here in Australia, broth was often included in cookery books such as the Green and Gold Cookbook in a section headed “Invalid Foods”. In 1937, the Australian Women’s Weekly gave a recipe for bone broth in a section on Children’s Meals. You could even buy broth in cans.

From the Rosella archives, State Library of Victoria

In 2015, bone broth attracted a lot of attention, including from the New York Times which wrote:

Recently, this prehistoric food has improbably become a trend beverage, ranking with green juice and coconut water as the next magic potion in the eternal quest for perfect health. Like other health foods that have taken off in recent years — yogurt, quinoa — broth combines mystical connections to the ancient world and demonstrable nutrition benefits in the modern one.

For paleo fanatics, it replaced coffee, as caffeine is one of those forbidden modern substances. In Melbourne, a former florist even renamed his café Brothl, serving a choice of 48-hour beef broth, 24-hour chicken broth, 12-hour fish broth and a vegetable broth made from kelp. All broths used pure rainwater from Monbulk in the nearby Dandenong Ranges. Brothl didn’t last long, closing in February 2015, but there is still a food truck known as Brothl Ramen touring the Melbourne suburbs. Sydney has Broth Bar and Larder at Bronte and there’s Brio Emporium on the Gold Coast. Plus plenty more. Online enterprises have also popped up specialising in broths and the major supermarkets even have house brands. I guess it’s one trend that’s here to stay.

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