A world without restaurants would be hard to imagine. But of course they have not always been here. Who invented them when and where? To find the answer to these questions we must go back to Paris, France in the 16th century.
The French word restaurant originates from the Latin verb restaurare, meaning "to restore.” It was first used to describe the broths and bouillon sold by street vendors in Paris, meant to restore, nourish and maintain health and vitality. You see, at that time, a restaurant was not a place to eat, but rather something to eat. There was only one thing to choose “Bouillon restaurant”, "restorative broth" - that is – and and instead of ordering whenever one pleased, it was served whenever it was ready. It became known that sipping warm, restoring broth would support digestive health and serve as a medicinal remedy for many ailments. Male Parisians who wanted something healthy and nourishing would frequent these new establishments known as “restaurant rooms”. Women were only allowed in the company of a man, and colored, poor and children stayed away entirely.
We’ve come a long way since the 16th century, and the restaurant establishment has evolved. In contrast to the original Parisian establishment where one ate what was offered whenever the host would serve it, restaurant diners nowadays can order from a bountiful menu of options, at the time of their convenience. And thankfully, contemporary customers include everyone, independent of origin, age or gender. In that sense, society and the evolution of the restaurant has come leaps and bounds over the centuries.
However, when it comes to the healing properties of restorative broths, somewhere along the way we receded rather than evolved. People worked longer hours and spent less time cooking, restaurants looked for every kind of short cut, and scientists experimented with creative new ways of making food production more convenient. Concentrated tablets, liquids and powders were understandably a welcome invention, producing an instant flavorful broth without long hours of cooking it from scratch.
In 1908, a Japanese biochemist invented a substance called Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) to emulate the rich umami flavor that signifies a good broth. Food companies were impressed by MSG’s ability to trick consumers into thinking they were eating a delicious home cooked broth, when in reality it was an inexpensive chemical that provided the flavor. New technologies nearly swept away the art of making broth from real ingredients, and much of our food is now produced with artificial chemicals and are far from the original soup our French ancestors used to sip. To this day, it is a challenge to find broth produced without MSG whether it’s served at restaurants or sold as powder, liquid or tablets at the convenient store.
Considering what the world of food has come to this day and age, I find it significant to recognize and treasure the notion that the very original restaurant establishments began as purveyors of health, longevity and restauration. In an urge to hold on to this rich history of ours, I am excited to introduce Alchemy’s own take on medicinal broths, made with real ingredients from scratch with the intention to nourish, heal and satisfy.
Because the good news is, a new generation of diners are showing up with an increasing demand to know exactly what they are consuming – and making sure it is of the utmost quality. They are rejecting mass produced and processed products laden with chemicals, and turning their attention back to whole food the way we knew it generations ago.
It is by this community of well informed individuals I have been inspired to take our broth a step further, using medicinal mushrooms and herbs from the ancient tradition of Chinese medicine. As a base for each broth you find a 3-herb extraction consisting of Reishi, Chaga and Aswagandha.
Reishi (Ganoderma Lucidum), commonly referred to as the king of mushrooms, or the mushroom of immortality, has been used in Asia for thousands of years, as one of the oldest remedies of well-being and longevity. It is revered for inhibiting tumor growth, regenerating the liver and strengthening the immune system.
Chaga, also called the queen of mushrooms, is the antidote to the immunological crisis we humans are facing today. With extraordinary amounts of minerals and antioxidants, Chaga is known to slow down the aging process, fight inflammation and prevent cancer.
Ashwagandha is a medicinal herb known to improve memory and mental health, balance blood sugar and boost muscle strength and fertility.
In addition, I have also added other healing ingredients to enrich the medicinal benefits and flavor of each broth. You can choose from a variety of options, such as Turmeric Laksa, Italian Minestrone, Cream of Mushroom and Healing Herbs.
There you have it – from an ancient restaurant to a contemporary one – not referring to the restaurant establishment – but rather to the broth.
I’d love to know what you think.
Shanti Maria Allen
recipe developer and author