I sure remember it differently than this. Here I am with Tressa Yellig — co-founder of Salt Fire and Time and owner of Broth Bar in the bustling inner east side of Portland, Oregon — slurping bone broth out of a crisp white mug in an equally crisp café. A curated selection of health foods lines the shelves. Seven bone broth options, plus kombucha and brine shots, round out the menu.
As the product of a Jewish family with Eastern European heritage, my version of bone broth was the chicken stock base for noodle soup or matzo ball soup. It wasn’t glamorous; there were no ethical considerations into how the chickens were raised (but I’ll be damned if a bowl of that glorious recipe couldn’t cure the worst of colds).
Bone broth has seen a resurgence of sorts thanks to elite athletes (among them, Kobe Bryant) claiming it’s their secret to recovery and longevity after high-intensity training. In the last couple of years, storefronts have popped up in culinary hubs nationwide selling bowls of gelatinous goodness in all sorts of variations, touting the benefits of bone broth.
“Not only does the protein help recovery, it’s actually easier to digest,” Yellig says as I try the butter coffee (locally roasted coffee with an added “bomb” of ultra-clarified butter and cocoa butter — a fatty boost meant to counteract the liquid’s harsh side effects).
While there are no definitive studies touting its benefits, plenty of media outlets promote everything from more radiant skin to better digestion. “It’s truly a cooked food that acts like a raw food (in respect to the digestive benefits),” Yellig says.
Yellig, a native of Ohio, left the state to attend cooking school in New York and found that nutrition was left out of the curriculum. She began reading everything she could about the benefits of her food and discovered her new passion.
Shortly after, she came to Portland and pooled resources with a few friends to start Salt Fire and Time. After a couple of her initial partners left the business, she became the de facto leader of what was now a small commercial kitchen producing health foods, primarily bone broth.
“At the start, there wasn’t really an idea to have a bone broth storefront,” she says.
That was eight years ago. Now, Yellig and her sister, Katie, run Broth Bar, which recently celebrated its two-year anniversary. It’s also marks two years since they opened their expanded commercial kitchen. They needed the space to beef up production for a process that takes 72 hours from start to finish. Tressa oversees production, while Katie spends much of her time researching and visiting farms to ensure the bones they’re using come from ethically raised animals.
“We only want to use animals that are eating what they’re supposed to be eating,” Yellig says.
Simply put, the collagen, marrow, and cartilage in the bones break down and infuse with the broth. The result is a silky, moderately seasoned elixir that really takes on the character of whichever animal the bones came from. After consumption, it absorbs into the body, and all of those elements help recovery and muscle growth. Amino acids help with inflammation as well.
On the day I was in the shop, they had chicken and beef, but turkey, lamb, and bison are available as well. Sea salt is an optional addition for a bit more flavor.
Yellig encouraged me to try a second bowl, this one called Sunshine. A beef broth base is amped up with basil, arbequina olive oil, lemon, and coconut milk. It tastes a bit like a curry base, but much less flavor-forward. Still fatty, still gelatinous, still wonderfully creamy. My first bowl was Comfort: ghee (clarified butter), cocoa butter, and mushrooms.
Even though Yellig sells a line of bone broths in 24 oz. jars, she sees the next frontier in home development. She relates it to the kombucha boom that led newcomers to start producing “booch” in their own homes.
“I think that, as the category grows, we’ll see more kits to make sourcing bones and cooking broth at home easier and more streamlined,” she says.
Regardless, bone broth and the surrounding health food culture is here to stay. The shop saw a stready stream of visitors during my visit; one woman even stopped to say hi and explain how she was essentially a regular at the café.
“We want to make drinking bone broth a lifestyle choice that is effortless to integrate into daily life,” Trellig says. “We want this to be accessible.”
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