Rant of the Day: Why Are We So Enthralled With Brown Water — Er, Bone Broth?


Food fads come and go. Some are good — hello, Cronut! Some are everlasting — bacon on everything! And some are just WTF — flavored infused foams? Why, Ferran Adria, why? The latest craze sweeping across the country falls squarely into the last category. Yes, I mean “bone broth.” The term itself is redundant, first of all. Broth is the result of boiling bones in water. But in order to sell it to beard-wearing, Paleo-dieting, urban, millennial, hipster techies, you gotta make it sound trendy and new. That way, people will then plop down $5 to $9 for what amounts to a small cup of yellowish brown water.

It’s become the healthy living elixir of the moment with everyone singing its praises and ability to improve joint health, reduce cellulite and boost your immune system. Some guy named Kobe Bryant says it has worked wonders even though he is now out for the season and the Lakers suck (so take his recommendation with a grain of salt). Claims that it can heal all that ails you are not really new, as broth in one form or another has been around since man learned to hunt. It falls into the waste-nothing category of using every part of the animal, especially when times are tough and food is scarce — it was called the Middle Ages!

The recent resurgence of broth can be traced (blamed?) to Marco Canora’s Brodo in New York, where “health-obsessed” (or maybe fad-chasing) folks line up (seriously?!) forthree3 different sizes of broth with all the buzzwords that make people hate foodies: grass-fed, gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, Pennsylvania Amish chicken. Wait, what? Do they drive buggies to cross the road to slaughter? Sorry, I didn’t even know Amish chicken was a thing, or why it needs to be. Plus, for an additional 75 cents you can get add-ins like ginger juice, Calabrian chili oil or fermented beet juice. In Russia they call beets and broth borscht. Even sadder, Canora has landed a book deal. That’s right, pretty soon you will have a whole book on how to boil meat parts and bone in water. Let me save you the $35 book price now: take your favorite meat, stick it in a pot of water, boil till meat or whatever falls apart and water is murky. Strain out leftover bits from the pot, and then season the colored water to taste. Voila — bone broth! You’re welcome.

This fad has rapidly made its way across country, landing in San Francisco at Bel Campo Meat Co. They offer frozen quarts of the stuff you can take home; or, better yet, you can get some in a cup disguised as coffee with a hot-sleeve and everything. That way, you won’t be made fun of while riding public transportation. Since it is the new hot thing, I can understand established places jumping on the bandwagon while they can. All you have to do is look at how much money Dunkin’ Donuts has made with their Cronut knock-off to know there is money in bone broth to be made.

Sad thing is, it’s being pitched as a healthy superfood-like thing, as opposed to something that actually, you know, tastes good. Whenever that happens, people have lost their minds. Even worse if you have to pay extra (!) for spice flavors to make it palatable. Then there is the price: starting at $5 for eight ounces and going up from there! Folks, including me, made a lot of fun of the whole $4 toast thing. In the toast’s case, at least, it was bigger than a baby’s head, thicker than a starlet’s waist, came smothered in tons of butter, honey and preservesl, and tasted hearty and delicious. And it was really only $3.75 — take that bone broth! For about 25 cents I can float a bouillon cube in a cup of hot water and save myself both time and money.

This particular food fad is going to reach its nadir quicker than others. When bars from Asheville, N.C. to Boulder, Colo. to Los Angeles are offering cocktails infused with the stuff, you know it has gone too far. Let’s blame LA again (see Kobe Bryant above) for making this even more ridiculous as LA boite Pistola now offers the soup cocktail. A libation of lamb consommé and Glenlivet Scotch, all for the robust price of $22. It does come with some buttered toast points, which makes it all worth it, right?

I’m sorry, but bone broth is not some magic superfood; it’s just what’s left in the Crockpot after your roast is done. If you insist I’m wrong and want to continue sipping your $8 shitake-mushroom-infused, roasted-garlic-pureed, bone-marrow-flavored-broth while wearing your Etsy hat and scarf, sitting at a café table Snapchatting and Instagramming your friends, then by all means go ahead. I, then, have the right to roll my eyes at your utter lack of awareness about the ridiculousness of it all.

Austin Wallace is veteran food fad chaser—both good and bad. He will shout from the roofs when it’s fab and equally share when it’s total crap. You can follow his adventures in eats at his blog Place’s I’ve Eaten, or follow on Twitter @placesiveeaten.

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