Books

What Doesn't Kill You Will Surely Give You Heartburn

When reading The Bare Bones Broth Cookbook, food safety and strange adaptations of classic recipes may come to mind.


The Bare Bones Broth Cookbook

Publisher: HarperWave
Authors: Katherine and Ryan Harvey
Format: Hardcover
Publication date: 2016-01
Amazon

Katherine and Ryan Harvey, owners of Oregon's Bare Bones Broth Company, want to share the good news about broth in The Bare Bones Broth Cookbook. To that end, the couple hazard various claims about the substance ranging from ridiculous to potentially dangerous. From an introduction by a physician running a "fatburn factory" to unsubstantiated, miraculous recoveries from arthritis, eczema, and Osteoporosis, The Bare Bones Broth Cookbook misleads readers into thinking bone broth will cure every ailment.

The Harveys bring scant credentials to their venture. We're told Ryan Harvey is a classically trained chef who has cooked in all types of settings. Where he trained or cooked is unspecified. Katherine Harvey's resume includes a LiveJournal blog begun at age 12 and award-winning journalism, but neither the journalism nor the awards are named.

That the couple lack cooking expertise or a serious grounding in fundamentals is immediately apparent when they suggest broth may be safely refrigerated for seven- to ten-days. On the contrary, reputable sources say: Do not refrigerate broth more than three to four days or you risk food poisoning. Indeed, I consulted numerous sources to support this claim, including the United States Food Safety.gov website, the 75th Anniversary Edition of The Joy of Cooking and Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Anyone wishing to refrigerate broth longer than three days needs to bring it to a boil. As for freezing, a year-long of freezing, as suggested by the Harveys won't sicken you, but your broth won't taste of much after the recommended two to three months of freezing.

If this isn't enough to concern you, then wholesale mangling of classic recipes should ring alarm bells. Scotch Eggs, hailing from England, calls for wrapping fresh pork sausage meat around hard boiled eggs, then deep-frying the lot. The Harveys blithely skip past fresh herbs in the sausage and, of course, using the "enemy" that is flour, which is necessary for proper frying, but instead suggest simply plunking the eggs on arugula and tomato jam, neither of which are in hailing distance of the original dish.

Worse is Classic Paella. This king of Spanish rice dishes calls for a specialized pan, a paella, to best nurture a soccarat, the crusty bottom everyone fights over. Which rice should you use? Claudia Roden, in her monumental The Food of Spain writes: Use medium-grain Spanish or paella rice. If it is not available, use a risotto rice such as Arborio or Carnaroli.

The Harveys indifferently call for two cups of short-grain rice. A large pinch of saffron is dumped into the pot without so much as a crumble or warm water presoak, which are traditional methods of extending the world's most expensive spice.

Beef Ragù, as defined by Marcella Hazan in The Essentials of Italian Cooking, is best made using a "marbled" cut of beef, ideally "the neck portion of the chuck", cooked in milk, wine, and tomatoes for a minimum of three hours. Hazan's recipe abjures broth; demiglace, she writes, which will make the sauce the "harsh". Other ingredients: freshly ground pepper, salt, carrot, celery, onion, dry white wine, canned tomatoes. No garlic. Best eaten over homemade tagliatelle.

The Bare Bones Broth Cookbook Beef Ragù recipe calls for ground beef, ghee, mushrooms, ground coriander, ground cumin, paprika, beef broth, and garlic powder (this is not the complete recipe). This is eaten over spaghetti squash noodles with a relish calling for squash seeds, currants, and apple cider vinegar.

This is not Beef Ragù.

None of the many shrimp, fish, or seafood recipes mention sustainability. Seasonality receives short shrift; recipes like Maple-Bourbon-Glazed Shrimp With Peaches and Roasted Red Pepper Soup don't suggest optimal purchase or consumption times... like the summer months. Asparagus, meanwhile, is kind of an overlooked vegetable. When I relayed this quote to a friend, by her own admission no kind of cook, she laughed hysterically. To live in Berkeley, California when the spring asparagus arrives is to witness slavering, starving, joyous greed.

Poor, maligned flour is accused of being gut-wrecking (neither Harvey mentions a Celiac diagnosis), yet the Sunchoke Breakfast Bowl calls for four of the notoriously flatulence-inducing tubers at the morning meal. Simon Hopkinson, writing in The Good Cook laments his inability to consume the sunchoke: these very agreeable and delicious tubers no longer agree with me; the wind generated would lift a Zeppelin.

* * *

In 1997, during my third year of graduate school, my digestion went haywire. Terrified, I visited non-Western practitioners, burned moxa, swallowed herbal supplements. I gave up wheat and dairy, sugar and fat, alcohol and processed foods. Three years passed. Switching to western medicine, I saw doctors, ingested 17 different drugs, underwent four procedures, and was hospitalized once. By 2000, I was subsisting on steroids, pasta, and chicken broth. Total removal of my colon and tube feeding were seriously discussed.

During that time, I learned to make my own chicken broth. While it doubtless nourished me during that desperately ill period, bone broth cannot be credited for my eventual recovery. I have Western medicine to thank for that, along with relative youth and plain good luck.

Western medicine also offered a diagnosis: Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Hypermobility Type, with Vascular Complications. Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, ironically, is a collagen defect, causing many of the problems The Bare Bones Broth Cookbook proposes to remedy.

Were bone broth capable of restoring damaged collagen, curing arthritis, or healing a ravaged gut, I would know. I certainly drank enough of the stuff. And believe me, I wish it were so easy.

Instead, bone broth, properly prepared and stored -- no more than three days, friends -- is delicious. It's also good for you, along with a wide variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, and yes, carbohydrates. Even the occasional fast food meal (gasp!) won't kill you. Yeah, you might get heartburn afterward. But that's all.

Should carbophobia burrow deep in your psyche -- and by this I mean you do not have Celiac -- I suggest you consult cookbooks observing basic food safety practices. Books that honor the world's cuisines rather than pillaging them. As you page through their recipes, take extreme caution about health, diet, or any other claims offered at face value. Ask how these claims will benefit the authors. More importantly, ask how they will benefit you.

Of course, I don't think the Harveys are trying to kill anyone. Their enthusiasm for this diet infuses this book. However, nor do I think them serious about food and cooking.

Instead, they're pinning their hopes for health and long life on a diet. It won't work. No diet will cure disease. Nor will any diet cure the inevitable: we all age. Our bodies decline. Regardless of whether or not we eschew carbs or down gallons of bone broth, we are all going to die. The ideal is to live as healthy as possible.

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