As interest in Paleo and Primal Diets continues to expand, one question continues to come up—what did our Paleo period ancestors actually eat? While there is no conclusive answer, we can be assured that one food was right at the top of their list—bone marrow.
Bone marrow is a soft, fatty substance found inside bones. It contains all the nutrients and substances that the body uses to build, repair, and maintain the living bones, from the inside out. There are a number of caves that show long evidence of human habitation, going all the way back to the Paleolithic period. All of these caves contained ancient fire pits. And all of these caves contained the remnants of large piles of bones. The bones that were found were animal bones. Almost without exception, they had been cracked open, and every trace of the marrow removed. This is the most direct evidence we have of what Paleo people actually ate.
Wild animals also value bone marrow. Large predators will crack open the bones of their prey, and eat the marrow. Hyenas, which are scavengers rather than hunters, have incredibly powerful jaws that are perfect for cracking even large bones open so they can get at the bone marrow.
The healthy peoples studied by Dr. Weston A. Price also valued bone marrow, when they could get it. Some would crack open the bones and eat it raw, most would simmer marrowbones in their broths, and others would extract the marrow and use it in all kinds of dishes. Bone marrow was an important component in traditional European cooking, with many different ways of preparing it, some of which were quite complicated. Marrow dumplings were a favorite throughout central Europe.
Dr. Price once designed a diet for a group of very poor children who went to school at a mission in Canada. These children were of native background, and usually ate modern, cheap, high-carbohydrate, high-sugar foods. They had terrible teeth, poor attention spans, stunted growth, and all kind of health problems. They did very poorly in their studies. The school did provide lunch. Dr Price devised a lunch plan for them that centered largely around a meat dish he designed. This dish contained a large amount of vegetables and meat broth, and a substantial amount of bone marrow. Broiled rare meat was finely chopped and added to other ingredients. Not only did the children’s teeth and health improve substantially, but they began to excel in their schoolwork. There is a recipe for my version of this dish on page 120 of Tender Grassfed Meat.
Old-time physicians would prescribe eating bone marrow to strengthen the teeth and bones, to recover from injury, and relieve rheumatism and other bone problems.
Most people are intimidated by the thought of cooking bone marrow, but there is an easy solution. My friend, Sarah Pope, of the Healthy Home Economist blog, has come up with a method of cooking bone marrow that is so easy and delicious that it defies belief. Here is a link to Sarah’s video that explains her easy method and demonstrates it. You will not believe how easy it is.
Sarah likes to serve it on toast, which is traditional in Europe, but you do not have to eat grains to enjoy this most nutritious and delicious of foods. You can eat it right out of the bone, with a small spoon (there used to be spoons designed specifically for this purpose), or you can spread it on a nice hot piece of grassfed steak or roast, which was also a tradition all over Europe. This is so delicious that I do not even know how to describe it. And bone marrow is one of those foods that really satisfies, being loaded with nutrients.
I only recommend bone marrow from the bones of grassfed animals. This was the kind of marrow our ancestors ate, and I have always found grassfed animals to be totally superior when it comes to nutrition and taste.
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