Food fads typically begin the way all fads do, with a tiny underground tremor that’s quickly picked up on and championed by Malcolm Gladwell’s precious “mavens” and transferred across society by both connectors and the media. Eventually, what started as an idea, and maybe a clever one, is a bona fide phenomenon that even Kathie Lee Gifford can’t stop talking about and which is pretty much guaranteed to irritate the shit out of you. The thing about food fads is that unlike, say, Tebowing or Koosh Balls or key parties, the reason they gain cultural traction is that they’re often sold as being good for you. A lot of food trends aren’t just about food, they’re about nutrition. The South Beach diet and cutting out carbs and going gluten-free all became dumb national obsessions because people were told they would make them feel better, became true believers of this word, then prophets for it. This is what makes food fads so obnoxious: the people pitching them claim to be doing you a favor and the people who adopt them often consider them gospel.
Which brings us to bone broth. If you haven’t heard the overpowering buzz on this stuff yet, don’t worry, you probably will soon. In addition to being probably the single best euphemism for semen anyone’s ever come up with — making it an easy pitch for guys trying to get their girlfriends to eat it — bone broth is really nothing more than broth. Or stock. Or whatever the hell your grandmother used to call it back when your grandfather had a curly moustache because it was 1914 and not because he was a douche who lives in Silverlake. Sure, “bone broth” as a brand has a few extra ingredients thrown in and the bones used to make it are “slow-roasted,” which supposedly draws out those prized nutrients, but really the stuff has been around forever — which is, of course, the idea. Bone broth is huge with people “going paleo” because it’s basically ancient and its benefits can easily be boasted about in endless Twitter updates by those who insist that cavemen knew best.
The bone broth quasi-craze may not have officially been started by Hearth Chef Marco Canora, but when the books are written about it — or at the very least someone makes a list of the great fads of 2015 and posts it online — he’s likely going to get credit for it. Canora is the very smart guy who capitalized on New Yorkers’ fascination with single-concept restaurants and then hammered his particular concept home with hosannahs like the piece he wrote for Munchies, titled “I Was an Insane Chef Until I Started Drinking Broth.” In the article, Canora claims that drinking broth gave him a feeling of wellness and comfort and helped him to overcome his issues with “gout, crazy-high cholesterol, crazy-high blood sugar levels, and the beginnings of insulin resistance.” He doesn’t claim it’s a miracle elixir specifically, but honestly he may as well. The message is pretty clear.
Enter Canora’s new bone broth stand, Brodo. He sells the stuff like coffee, in regular cardboard cups, and suggests people drink it exactly that way and even replace their morning joe with something he claims is much healthier. Whether he actually started the trend or merely brought it to one of the most influential places in America and the world, Canora’s brothy evangelism has a fellow convert in Shailene Woodley (who it must be doing some good for since in her last movie she was dying of cancer and this weekend she’ll be leading a rebellion in a dystopian future). She was on Letterman earlier this week and during her appearance tried to make not one but two things seem more impressive than they actually are: Insurgent and bone broth. Woodley says she eats bone broth regularly — yes, I’m laughing like Beavis and Butthead right now — and really appreciates that it beautifully “utilizes the whole animal.” When Letterman pushed back, asking what the difference is between bone broth and plain old stock, well, Woodley kind of stumbled.
Shailene Woodley, like many other disciples, claims that the secret to bone broth is that it’s cooked much longer than ordinary, boring broth. But many argue that health-wise and even taste-wise there just isn’t a damn bit of difference between the two. It will surprise absolutely no one to learn that fans and purveyors of bone broth also claim that it rids the body of toxins, contains powerful amino acids that turn it into a “superfood” which helps to repair tissue and maintain good blood pressure, and has collagen that makes it a wrinkle-eraser. Also not surprisingly, the facts kind of shoot all of that to hell. No one’s saying bone broth is bad for you, as it certainly isn’t. It’s simply no better for you than plain old broth or stock.
Alas, it’s too late to stop the bone broth train. That sucker has already left the station and is now barreling full-speed around the world like the Snowpiercer but for your clogged colon. There’s a celebrity paleo chef in Australia whose diet book was just put on hold because he recommended feeding infants a formula made from bone broth, which health professionals alarmingly insisted would inundate babies’ bodies with 10 times the safe amount of vitamin A. (Add Chef Pete Evans to the ever-growing list of things in Australia that can kill you.) Meanwhile, companies making and sourcing bone broth can barely keep up with the demand.
If you’re drinking bone broth because you think it’s tasty — fine. Sure, there’s not a thing original about it unless you measure what you’re doing along a timeline of hundreds of millions of years, but there’s a reason chefs and regular people have been cooking and eating broth forever. Choosing to ingest it via a cup rather than a bowl isn’t even all that interesting given that the Japanese have been sipping soup for centuries (and that’s just one example). There’s nothing really new about bone broth and what’s supposedly ancient about it doesn’t make it the least bit special. It’s good for you in the same way that mom’s chicken soup is good for you: it’s got nutrients in it and it’s comforting. That’s all there is to it really.
I swear, I’m going to bring back the Pet Rock. It’s the perfect fad for 2015. It’s paleo. Each one is “artisan” and completely original. And it’s proven to relieve stress when you throw it at idiot hipsters lining up to pay $8.50 to drink beef stock out of a Starbucks cup.
Chez Pazienza was the beating heart of The Daily Banter, sadly passing away on February 25, 2017. His voice remains ever present at the Banter, and his influence as powerful as ever.