Not too long ago my wife embarked upon an Ayurvedic cleans that was very helpful for her. One of the components of this cleans was to eat very little, and the food she could eat was in the form of thin vegetable broth. This broth had Leeks, Celery, Carrots and spices,with clarified butter and very little else. My initial reaction was that it would be impossible to survive on this type of sustenance and I watched her take this on with some skepticism. However, she seems quite happy living on this, wasn’t overcome with hunger pains or malnutrition as I though she would be, and often seems satisfied and full from a single bowl of broth. She was loosing weight and I thought I should at least try it, so soon the two of us were quite happily eating broth more often than not. I also lost weight, still had plenty of energy and was quite satisfied with the meals.
I was really quite surprised by this and wondered how it was that something so simple as this could be such a mystery to me until now. In thinking about it I came up with a couple of ideas.
It seems to me that our digestive systems are well suited to broth. The cooking process softens the food and dissolves its nutrients in the water. It ensures that we access as much of the full nutrient content of the food as possible. When nutrients were scarce, our ancestors would have a definite advantage over other creatures, by being able to extract nutrients this way. They could survive longer on less. I find that there is evidence that pottery may have been used as early as 18,000 years ago. Given such a long relationship with broths, it would seem that digestive system would be very well adapted to them. Much more so than the foods which we have come to consider basics in the last 100 years or so. Stable old cultures like we find in Asia rely heavily on broths.
Also, as a communal group, broth allows for more equal distribution of resources. The nutrient quality of the broth is in the liquid as well as the foods, so everyone gets something to eat, even when the Alpha members get the good stuff. It allows whatever nutrient resources that have been hunted and gathered to be combined and shared so that the group can flourish as an organism. The volume of the communal dinner can easily be adjusted upwards. Broth inherently manages the distribution of resources, taking the management of resources at least somewhat out of the hands of the Alpha players. It seems to be the beginning of the hearth as the archetype of nurturing, and of Matriarchy, as well as warmth and protection. By removing evaluation of worth from direct management by the Alpha players, it allows for the exploration of specialization and movement away from the hunter gatherer paradigm. These reasons alone offer some explanation for why our digestive systems would evolve to orient to assimilating the maximum nutrient value from broth.
Even though I consider myself to be quite well versed in the nutritional requirements of mammals, I find that Broth opened my eyes to a way of eating that had not really been available as an option to me before. I had an initial strong negative reaction to the idea of even occasionally having a broth as my main meal of the day. I can’t imagine where this idea came from or why it is so deeply embedded in my reasoning. I can see how maintaining the idea of always eating solid, unboiled foods leads to weight issues and how cooking at temperatures above 100C can lead to disease. I know this negative idea of broth is a cultural thing with us, as it is not only my own reaction I can reference, but also pretty much the response of everyone I talk to as well.