My Quest for Bone Broth

To flavor soups and sauces, many cooks traditionally use broth derived from simmered bones of fish, fowl, or four-footed critters. In recent years, bone-broth bars have appeared and offer patrons a non-caffeinated, nutritious alternative to coffee or tea. In the more health-conscious of these establishments, the proprietors tout these elixirs for their filling, cleansing, and de-toxing capabilities.

I wanted to decide whether a daily cup of bone broth should be part of my annual January resolution for a healthy life. On the internet, I found four broth-serving establishments within a bike-friendly five-mile radius of home. Within the same range there were three Vietnamese cafes that serve pho, a traditional soup of spiced bone broth, rice noodles, and meat. Off I went.

I started at a broth “bar” that was an eight-foot square kiosk in a country mart’s passageway. The cheerful teenage attendant offered me a sample, which she poured straight from a refrigerated bottle. I was her only customer, so we chatted while I sipped. With my game face on, I thought, “Definitely don’t drink this stuff cold.” She touted broth’s virtues, which on the business’s website include increased energy, sharpened focus, optimization of vital functions, and body fat reduction.  She also explained how the owner obtained the bones and prepared the broth. Having picked her brain, I felt it only decent to buy a pint bottle of beef broth. She heated several ounces on a hotplate but had to go to a coffee shop down the way to get a paper cup. I took the rest home for my wife to taste. We shared our doubts about the long-term viability of this particular bone broth business.

A week later I decided to have pho for lunch preceded by visits to two bone broth bars and followed by a stop at another. The first was a store large enough to walk into. It had both chicken and beef bone broths that were already hot. There were also frozen packets for take-home. Again, I was the only customer, and the clerk was helpful although mistaken in her belief that broth contains collagen. In fact, bone is collagen-rich, but heating it degrades the collagen into gelatin. Then when swallowed, digestive enzymes break gelatin into its constituent amino acids before they are absorbed. It is beyond belief that our bodies would then reassemble these molecules into gelatin, much less collagen. (Consider this analogy: bald men eating hair.) This store’s website, in addition to repeating the kiosk’s claims, indicates that “collagen and gelatin found in bone broth build and help repair the GI tract” and are also good for immune support and joint pain relief. The vegetable soups I sampled tasted better than the broths, which I considered bland and certainly not a substitute for coffee. Maybe their bone broth blendies (hot) and collagen smoothies (cold) would be better, but I had miles to go.

The next stop was a burger café, which also had frozen whole chickens, quarts of refrigerated broth, and two urns of hot broth: traditional (beef/pork) and poultry (duck/chicken/turkey). The latter was as bland and unappealing as my previous tastings. The traditional blend was delicious. It was if I was gnawing the last crispy bits of steak off a T-bone. The cook explained that he roasted the bones for about an hour before simmering them for 48 more. Condiments enhanced the pleasure. My favorite was a stirred-in spoonful of parsley-garlic pesto. 

Lunch time! I found a counter seat at a bustling hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese café. The meatball pho came in a huge bowl with cilantro, onion, and bean sprouts garnishing the rice noodles and broth. Good, and certainly filling, but since all the ingredients complicated my quest for tasting bone broth, I decided to pass on the other nearby Vietnamese eateries that day.  

I next cycled to a health food café. In addition to “Classic Chicken or Beef Broth” I could order either one with added ingredients such as turmeric, ghee, schizandra berry, cabbage, and jalapeno to produce “Anti-Inflammatory Broth,” “Butter Broth,” “Immunity Broth,” “Gut Broth,” or “Skinny Broth.” They all cost $10-$12 for 12 ounces, and for $2 more, I could “add collagen with 10 grams of protein.”

While sipping my Classic Beef, I browsed the foyer bookshelf and flipped through Dr. Kellyann’s Bone Broth Diet, which claimed I could lose up to 15 pounds,  4 inches (didn’t say from where), and my  wrinkles in 21 days. Despite those remarkable claims on the cover, inside Dr. Kellyann did note that boiling bone converts collagen to gelatin. She went on, however, to extol the purported health benefits of gelatin. Like many other advocates, she cherry-picked research results that supported her claims while ignoring the abundance of literature that has found no significant benefits of bone broth over eating a generally healthy diet. Also, I am typically wary of products claiming to cleanse and detox. How did these health trendistas let themselves get soiled and toxed in the first place?

Now at the end of my bone broth adventure, I had an uneasy feeling, perhaps caused by sudden weight loss or immunity gain. I knew for sure, however, that a whole class of taste buds had gone unstimulated all day. Before hopping back on my bike and heading to the office, I stopped at Burger King for a soothing Oreo milkshake.

“The spine surgery will help your child breathe.”

scoliosis drawingIn the 1950s, about the same time that John Charnley was perfecting total hip replacement surgery in England (see previous blog posts), American Paul Harrington addressed a vexing spine problem. To understand the problem, consider that a snake slithers along by curving its spine repeatedly from side to side. By comparison, a human’s spine is not as flexible. It can bend a little from left to right but is normally straight when its owner stands tall. If a human spine develops a curve to the side that does not go away when standing at attention, the bend is unbalanced and tends to progress. Untreated, the spine can collapse to the side and cause shortened stature, an unsightly humpback, and in some conditions even compression of the heart and lungs inside a twisted ribcage. A compromised life ensues. Read more

Holiday Gift Guide for Frugal Bone Lovers

For those hard-to-please people on your holiday shopping list, surprise them with a bone-related gift. The options are vast, but for inclusion here, my 14 recommendations had to meet these criteria:

  1. no real bone
  2. no skull motifs
  3. nothing blatantly Halloween or goth
  4. nothing risque (Yes, there are glow-in-the-dark undergarments.)
  5. nothing over $9.99 (The final and best one is free.)

Happy gifting. Also, forward this post to those who will be shopping for you with a “hint, hint.”

By the way, I have no financial interest in any of the items.

Slide8This paper punch comes in two sizes, 5/8″ for $5.95 and 1″ for $7.95.

Great for personalizing documents, checks, envelopes, restaurant menus.

The cut-outs will appeal to scrapbookers.

Continue shopping ……

Read more

It Takes a Turkey to Call a Turkey

18-11-13 turkey caller+It is currently mid-season for turkey hunting in California. The smart toms by this time have become jaded to the previously persuasive squawks and clucks generated by commercially available box,  diaphragm, and rattle callers. Enterprising hunters therefore may turn to a homemade device that Native Americans began using at least 6500 years ago–the wing bone turkey caller. Read more

Skulls in Fine Art

Slide2Halloween is the time of year that unrepentant boneheads such as myself can revel in ubiquitous displays and celebrations involving


Admittedly, some presentations are schlocky beyond our wildest nightmares, and yet few are frightful. Skeletons, skulls, mummies, gravestones, cobwebs, and ghouls are more or less amusing. This was not originally the case, particularly for skulls. Read more

Be careful what you ask for, paleontology style

In the 1930s, paleontologist Gustav von Koenigswald was looking for possible human ancestral fossils on the Indonesian island of Java. He was led there because forty years before, another paleontologist, Eugene Dubois, had found a tooth, thighbone, and skull cap of what he claimed to be the missing link between apes and humans. Whereas the colonial government had assigned convicts to help Dubois excavate the remains of what was to become known as Java Man, von Koenigswald had to hire local natives to help dig.

Slide2The photograph shows several rather intact skulls on von Koenigswald’s desk–reconstructions based on limited fragments that his team had turned up. Unfortunately too late, von Koenigswald discovered that the recovered fossil pieces were more fragmented than they had to be. Read more

The Human Hand, Not Really That Good for Anything

Long ago primitive sharks had ridges running down their sides from gill to tail. Later, muscles grew into the folds, and eventually the central portion of each ridge receded while the ends enlarged to form fins both fore and aft. All was well.

Slide5Then one day several hundred million years ago, a fish was swimming blissfully in a shallow pool. The tide went out and much to the fish’s surprise, she could use her five-rayed fins to move around a bit on the rocky bottom. The tide came in and she swam away, never to give this event another thought. The world, however, was forever changed. Read more

Camping Trip Accelerates Bone Research

18-09 UristAfter completing military service in World War II and then his orthopedic surgery residency in Boston, Marshall Urist returned to his native Illinois and joined the faculty at the University of Chicago. There he partnered with a physiologist, and they focused their laboratory research on bone growth and bone grafting. Urist noted on patients’ X-rays that new bone would not only form immediately around a graft but also at times some distance away, in muscle tissue for instance. He surmised that some chemical messenger must be stimulating local cells to begin producing bone. Thereafter he directed his research to isolate and identify the messenger. In the mid 1950s, Urist moved to Los Angeles and spent the remainder of his career at UCLA. Read more

Boning Up on Expressions

top ortho blogs 100 medallionBone tired and soaked to the bone in sweat, Jason crawled into his truck. The long scorching summer working for his paleontology professor in the bone-dry Wyoming bone beds was at its end. Although the work-study program had good bones on paper, in reality, it failed to deliver anything more than bone-numbing tedium. Read more