Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Is it worth eating?

Recipe: Simple Bone Broth

Changes are often not invited. Sometimes I move into them with willingness and excitement, and sometimes I back into them, without conscious choosing.

And sometimes I’m kicking and screaming the whole way.

This culinary journey I’ve been on most of my adulthood has generally had a life of it’s own. I started out in my early twenties, with enough skills to make sandwiches and fry or scramble eggs served with toast. You know, really upscale stuff.

When my future first food employer asked me if I knew how to cook, I said, without hesitation ‘no, but if you teach me, I can do anything.’ He did a sharp double take, and told me to show up at 8 am the following morning. I didn’t know at the time that there was anything unusual about a statement like that, and I also didn’t know that I was starting a career. I was 21 years old, and I just needed a job.

Unconscious choices. Sometimes I think they’re Grace happening in the only way they can to those of us who tend to be headstrong and opinionated, and who think we’re in charge of our lives.

I was cooking to pay the bills while I was working on becoming an actress. A filmmaker. A writer. A meditation teacher. A healer. A wife. A mother.

Years later I found the common thread through it all had been - food. Creating it. Finding it’s dance. It’s life. It’s sensuality and connection to the earth and my body. Other’s bodies. The Body.

And, I surrendered to the choice that had been made, back at 21 years old. I cook. Whenever I took hiatus’ from working in my professional life, I found I could go about two weeks before I’d start craving having my hands in food. Just something with fresh herbs and butter, bright veggies, succulent meats... my imagination wouldn’t let me rest.

Once the choice became conscious, I was able to let go of the fantasy of the creative life I was going to have, or wasn’t having, and I engaged in the creative life I was living. The weight of trying to create a future was off my shoulders. And it was freeing.

And once the choice became conscious, the whole arena became conscious. Not only was it about getting it on the table, producing product, it became about honoring the product, intentionality in the process. The question was no longer only ‘does it taste good?’, but ‘is it worth eating?’.

Which brings me to nutrient dense foods. Traditional foods.

The first (actually only) classical chef I worked with was Marcel, who had worked for many years in the hotel circuit. Well into his sixties (which at 22, seemed really old) I loved hearing the stories from his youth, in the resistance in France during WWII, how to make love on a beach so no one was chafed by the sand (lessons learned while working at a hotel in Tahiti), brutal treatment from the chefs who trained him back in the day.... and I thought he was nuts because he would never throw anything away. We steamed chickens every day to make various dishes, and he would demand that the gelatinous stock in the bottom of the pot be stored in the freezer. Five days a week. Liver and heart from various animals we cooked was likewise packaged and labelled, and left in the freezer for a rainy day.

We just didn’t sell that much soup! Nothing we made for the business used organ meat.

I would throw out gallons of chicken stock on his days off.

I cringe when I think about it. Knowing how soothing stock is to my digestive system now, how nourished I feel and stable my energy is when I’m incorporating organ meat into my diet on a regular basis, I feel such remorse at the ignorant waste I participated in. Granted, the animals were not organic, certainly not pastured - but I just didn’t understand. I thought I knew everything. ‘He grew up in war time, so he has chronic poverty consciousness’... and I knew better.

I wound my way through some years of constant hunger as a vegetarian, and even a couple of years as a vegan. They were health conscious choices, using information I had at the time. And, while I believe they were very effective ways to cleanse my body of toxins collected by chemical self abuse, they were not good methods of self nourishment for me. And my body told me so, in no uncertain terms.

I use everything now. I laugh, and love Marcel as I take the bits of fat out of the cavity of the chicken and render it into schmaltz. Pour it carefully in jars. Use it to saute vegetables, brown potatoes. Cook the chicken livers in it when the chicken goes in the oven, and split (read ‘fight over’) them with my five year old. Save the carcass, the neck, the gizzard after we finish the meat and cook it down, cook it down.... but now I’m getting into the recipe.

Simple Bone Broth
Gluten and dairy free, low salicylate, and safe for candida

Bones, skin, feet and non-liver organs of chickens or other meat. Or a whole chicken.

1/4 - 1/2 cup lemon juice per gallon total volume of bones and water

Crack the bones if you can, using the bottom of a heavy pot. Place bones and juice in a pot or slow cooker. Add water just to cover. Soak the bones for at least an hour in the cold acidulated water.

Bring to a boil and skim off any foam that rises to the top. Turn down to a low temperature. Ideally there should be no bubbles rising, barely any movement in the simmer. The slow cooker on low may even be too hot, but I use it anyway, it’s so easy.

Cook for 6 - 24 hours. If using a whole chicken, remove the chicken after cooking an hour or two and pull the meat from the bones to use in other recipes. Return the bones and skin to the broth and continue cooking. The longer it cooks, the more minerals will leach into the broth, making it a rich mineral supplement. Sometimes the gelatin breaks down with the longer cooking or with the higher heat, so you might lose that benefit. The bones should be crumbly to the touch, at least at the ends.

Strain. Bring to a rolling boil and reduce by half. Cool. Pour into ice cube trays and freeze. Pop the broth cubes into a zip lock bag and store in the freezer. Use in sauteeing veggies, pop a few in when cooking grains, and, of course, dilute a bit for soups. If you’ve reduced it, remember it’s concentrated. Especially if you’ve used a lot of chicken feet! They make a very dense broth.

It's delicious as it is with Celtic or Himalayan sea salt and a tablespoon of coconut oil. I sometimes have it like that for breakfast.