Bone Broth History

We can’t think of any food as highly revered and widely used across so many centuries and cultures as bone broth. Nearly every traditional society boiled meat or fish bones to create broths full of nutritional benefits. A South American proverb we love reads, “Good broth will resurrect the dead.” Chinese medicine, which dates back over 2,500 years, relies on broth to strengthen the digestive system and kidneys. In 12th-century Egypt, chicken soup was prescribed as a medicinal remedy for colds, kicking off the idea of chicken bone broth as “Jewish penicillin.”

Scientists started catching up with this age-old wisdom when researchers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries studied gelatin and discovered it improves digestion, strengthens joints, contains easily absorbable minerals, and helps the body assimilate protein. Broth continues to be a culinary and medicinal staple across the world. So many of the greatest dishes and health remedies wouldn’t exist without the foundation of bone broth. Here’s just a sampling of broth’s significance in a handful of cultures:

Italy

Brodo is the Italian word for broth and Marco’s inspiration for opening our shops. Broth-based soups and risottos are staples in most Italians’ upbringing. Brodo is the foundation for some of the most traditional Italian dishes, including stracciatella (eggs swirled in broth) served on Easter, and tortellini en brodo, the classic Christmas meal first course.

Eastern Europe

The 12th-century physician Maimonides kicked off the chicken-soup-as-medicine trend in his many medical books, which recommended chicken broth to “neutralize body constitution” and help heal “the emaciated” and “those convalescing from illness.” To this day, broth shows up on Jewish Sabbath tables with egg noodles or matzo balls in it.

China

Doctors of traditional Chinese medicine prize the marrow found in quality bone broths. It’s said to nourish the kidney jing (essence) – the fundamental foundation of life. We deplete our store of jing with stress, a poor diet, and lack of sleep. Chinese medicine doctors believe bone broth builds the storehouse of jing, along with healthy blood and strong bones.

Korea

A popular Korean comfort food soup is seolleongtang – beef bone broth made from oxtail and beef bones boiled for days to extract marrow. Legend has it that seolleongtang was created because a king of the Joseon dynasty needed to feed a huge crowd after a worship ritual involving a sacrificial cow. It’s one of many examples of bone broth as the simple solution for making the most of a whole animal.

France

One of our favorite historical facts about broth: it was the catalyst for the whole concept of restaurants. The word restaurant comes from the French word restaurer, which means "to restore or refresh.” No food is more restorative than broth, so the earliest restaurants in 18th-century Paris, called bouillons, served it to comfort and restore travelers.

Japan

Japanese turn to miso soup daily for boosting the immune system and fighting off colds. Dashi, miso soup’s base, is a simple fish broth made with kombu (dried kelp) and bonito flakes – shavings of dried, fermented, and smoked skipjack tuna. At the other end of the Japanese broth spectrum is the rich, creamy pork broth called tonkotsu broth. It’s milky white and thick with collagen and fat from pork marrow bones.

England

The English have been sipping “beef tea” and beef bone broth since the mid-1800s. As simple as cubed beef steeped in water, it was the go-to remedy for nursing the sick back to health. At the same time, the gelatin in bone broth made from split calves’ feet became a popular ingredients for making molded desserts like jellies and puddings.