My entire being is awash in a warm wave of beef essence.
The experience is not unlike being hit with a hot summer breeze carrying intoxicating hints of herbs, spices, and earth. At the Wellness Kitchen, it always smells like grandma’s house—if grandma was less into Campbell’s chicken noodle soup and more into clean eating and holistic medicine.
Three giant stainless steel pots brimming with grass-fed beef bones simmer on the kitchen’s cramped six-burner stovetop. Carrot, onion, leek, red and sweet potato, yam, garlic, celery, parsley, apple cider vinegar, kombu, allspice, peppercorn, and sea salt make the mix tasty, not just virtuous.
Volunteer Jennifer Hamman, who is no spring chicken but carries a youthful air in her bright eyes and gestures, ladles a batch of broth into a quart-sized mason jar. The glass is destined for the Wellness Kitchen’s loyal bone broth following (the wait list has grown wildly over the past year).
Strained and skimmed of fat, the nutrient dense elixir is uncloudy, a sunny golden color that conjures up thoughts of exotic potions. Hamman said she remembers when volunteers made just one big pot of bone broth per week. Now, orders have ballooned to 70 quarts per week, and that doesn’t include the chicken bone broth or mineral broth that volunteers toil over, too.
“The beef bone broth starts at 5 or 6 a.m., because the bones need to simmer for 12 hours,” Hamman said—without, I must add, even a tinge of fatigue.
Before that, the beef bones go on a baking sheet, where they are baked for half an hour, allowing the fat to release. Then, the baked bones are dropped in big pots of gurgling broth full of potent minerals and the aforementioned veggies.
When I mention that “fat” tastes pretty good (and couldn’t they leave a little bit in there?), Hamman gives me a naughty look. “There’s other ways to get healthy fat into your diet,” she said. “All that’s left is a beautiful clear broth, with a little residual fat.”
For the record, no one is complaining about the flavor. Thanks to the broth’s outrageous popularity, the nonprofit is seeking to build more relationships with ranchers interested in donating or selling their grass-fed beef bones. As it turns out, a good bone isn’t the easiest thing to find anymore. In case you didn’t know, “bone broth” has risen to acai berry heights. In a word, it’s trending.
“Because bone broth has become so popular in general, ranchers are now choosing to keep their bones and sell them, instead of donating them,” Hamman said. “Our No. 1 goal is to find new avenues for acquiring beef bones.”
Why all the hubbub about bones anyway? How good could they possibly be for your health?
Armed with a chalice of the Wellness Kitchen’s Healing Tea—which tastes like fresh ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, and clove—I aimed to find out.
Enter: Ashley Beels, a holistic wellness coach with a soft spot for beef bones. She got involved with the kitchen as a volunteer about two years ago, and now she’s fully immersed in the logistics of the Wellness Kitchen’s Pay it Forward program, which gives people access to healthy nutritious meals—especially children and adults undergoing radiation for cancer treatments. These reviving foods, including bone broth, are delivered to the sick and needy folks at no cost. Beels said she spends Sundays calling up folks and asking the simple yet important question, “How are you doing? Would you like to order some food for the week?”
“These people are not in a place, emotionally or physically, where they really want to cook,” Beels said. “It was during these phone calls that I really started hearing people raving about the bone broth; people were saying it didn’t make them nauseous. Many people said it was the only thing they could eat.”
Not only did Beels hear from locals that the broth added a healthy glow to sallow skin, it also increased energy levels and overall mood. Doctors were looking at patients’ numbers and scratching their heads. It’s that good.
Perhaps that’s why plenty of everyday health-seeking people have jumped on the bandwagon, shelling out $13 per quart for rebuilding beef bone broth and $10 for a lighter, chicken bone broth. Note: It can be consumed on its own or mixed into soups, rice dishes, or anywhere else you’d use a splash of chicken or vegetable stock.
Beels explained how the coveted liquid actually works its magic: pasture raised beef bones are filled with collagen and minerals, including calcium and magnesium, which the body uses to help build and maintain connective tissues.
“It might seem similar to broths that you could get at the store, but ours is so much easier to make at home and you get so much more nutrient value,” Beels said. “Cooking the broth for 24 hours means you’re getting everything you can out of it.”
“Still,” the wellness coach added, “the word that freaks people out is ‘bone.’”
If you ask her, it really shouldn’t.
Ever make your own chicken stock at home with leftover chicken carcasses and a few onions? Congrats! You’ve made bone broth. It’s really that simple.
So, next time you’ve got good quality beef bones on hand, why not throw ’em into a pot of boiling water with whatever extra veggies and herbs you have lying around in your fridge? Beel likes to add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to each pound of bones to extract more nutrients.
She added that folks who take glucosamine supplements for osteoporosis or osteoarthritis can benefit greatly from the addition of bone broth to the diet. Why? She said whole foods are always better than popping a pill.
Plus, could anything be more satisfying than tucking into a steaming hot bowl of herby broth? This humble foodstuff may sound like a little thing, but for the long list of people who drink it (sometimes up to three quarts a week), it’s no small wonder. To someone struggling to thrive, this tweak to their diet can mean the difference between a bad day and a better one.
“Having people tell me that they haven’t eaten in weeks, and that now they’re loving the broth, is so rewarding,” Beels said. “You can even tell over the phone; they just have so much more energy. It gives people some kind of hope, even if it’s just the hope of feeling better.”
Sponsor a broth!
Make sure that all the goodness that goes into the Wellness Kitchen's Rebuilding Beef Bone Broth gets into the bellies of all who need it. Sponsor a broth at the Wellness Kitchen for just a few bucks.
Bring it to a boil
Want to make your own bone broth? Looking to learn more about healthy food wisdom? Check out Rebecca Kat’s book, 'The Longevity Kitchen' or visit the Wellness Kitchen in person. To see what else the kitchen’s got cooking or to volunteer, head over to thewrc.org. The Wellness Kitchen is located at 1255 Las Tablas Road in Templeton. Café hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.