BOOK REVIEW: Broth, Nourishing Broth

Nourishing Broth: an Old-fashioned Remedy for the Modern World
By Sally Fallon Morell and Kaayla T. Daniel
Grand Central Publishing, 2014

Reviewed by Rosalind Michahelles 

This book tells you first why you should drink broth and then how to make it.  The “why” occupies parts one and two of the book, starting with the nutrition science on boiling bones, tendons, ligaments and the other remains—whether fowl, fish, or meat -- after we have eaten.  There is a good deal of complexity here but we can boil it down to gelatin, collagen, and cartilage.  All three are important elements in broth and stock, defined variously as including bits of meat and vegetable or not.  Stock, being the strained version, is used as a base for gravy and other sauces, especially after deducing or concentrating it.

Gelatin is made from collagen.  The commercially available powdered form is a handy additive to make food both more digestible and also higher in protein, gelatin being 85-90% protein.  Unfortunately, most of us first met it in the artificially sweetened and colored product Jell-O!  Gelatin is what gives Jell-O its wobble.  From a medical point of view, gelatin can be important for its “sparing effect” on protein such that the body is less likely to cannibalize protein from its own body tissue – hence the effectiveness of traditional meat broth during illness and convalescence.

To get gelatin from collagen you cook it.  In our own bodies, collagen accounts for over a quarter of our protein, being found in skin, bones, membranes, blood vessel walls, organs, and, well, just about everywhere.  The authors maintain that, since the body builds collagen as part of the healing process, we should drink broth instead of taking NSAID pain killers which block inflammation.  In other words, accept pain from inflammation in the name of healing – don’t thwart your immune system’s defenses. 

If you know about cartilage, it may be from experiencing joint injury or osteoarthritis.  (Cartilage is what we call gristle when it’s our own joints, but ‘gristle’ when we find it in our dinner.)  In any case, it is one of the healing elements in broth.  There has been research into the effectiveness of consuming cartilage – via broth – to repair damaged or thinning cartilage.  The book goes into some detail about the proteins which are involved in maintaining and repairing cartilage and other tissues and then addresses how various ailments can be alleviated by consuming broth and stock.  Specifically, besides osteoarthritis, they are: rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, psoriasis, wound healing, infectious diseases, digestive disorders, cancer, and mental illness.  If some of the claims seem far-fetched, there is nonetheless no harm in drinking broth, so why not?

Certainly, one reason why not could be not knowing how to prepare broth and stock or not trusting commercial offerings.  So the last 150 pages of the book tell you how from the simplest boiling bones in water to more ambitious fare.  And here’s a modern twist to an age old practice: think of stock as a gluten-free sauce thickener!  You will find lots of recipes for soups and stews and plenty to keep a slow cooker filled and occupied – while keeping you, also, full and occupied.  This is both a very interesting and very useful book.