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Delicious to the bone

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Paleo. Organic. Local. Gluten-free. Farm to table. To many, these are simply buzzwords in the ever-changing world of food. To Tara Bersnak, owner of Beautiful Soup, they describe a philosophy that honors the best of modern food science with time-honored culinary traditions.

The origins of Bersnak’s small, savory business began with her allergy-prone daughter, Montsy. As Bersnak began eliminating foods from their diet to identify the triggers, she also made something to soothe the stomach — bone broth.

Bone broth is made with beef or chicken bones vegetables, spices and apple cider vinegar — all combined and cooked for hours. Though time-consuming, the result is a versatile, nutritional powerhouse, said Bersnak, a parishioner of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Winchester and a graduate of Christendom College in Front Royal. Though it’s currently a paleo trend, she said bone broth is an age-old practice that honors the animal by using every part. “The food science confirms what our grandmothers were doing,” she said.

“It’s known to be healing for a distressed digestive system (because) the glycine in bone broth is a big anti-inflammatory amino acid,” said Bersnak, peppering her language with food chemistry terms, the effect of running a business that caters to health-conscious families, and raising children with allergies. “I think that every mom is an amateur nutritionist,” she said.

Now, all the soups she sells, like chicken kale, paleo potstickers and pumpkin garlic, start with bone broth. She adds organic produce and humanely raised, pasture-fed meat from nearby farms.  Over the years, she has developed relationships with many of the farmers, and trusts their stewardship of the soil and treatment of their animals. Buying from them allows their way of farming to continue and is a way to support her little part of Virginia.

“I tell my customers what a difference they're making in their local communities by investing back into them,” she said. Her husband, a political science professor at Christendom, teaches his students about the Catholic social principal of subsidiarity — leaving political decisions up to the local level whenever possible. Bersnak applied the principle to her soup, and found that the local food movement is about more than environmental concerns: “it’s about putting our communities first,” she said. 

Bersnak knows that for many, high-quality food is often too expensive to buy regularly. When it’s not in her own family’s budget, Bersnak buys regular meat instead of grass-fed or forgoes meat altogether. “It’s a privilege coming from a place of abundance,” she said.

Based on Bersnak’s food philosophy, Beautiful Soup’s customers run the gamut. “Some of them just like the soup, some have a very strict commitment to eat local, some are fellow allergy moms who are trying to find ways to feed their child healthy proteins that they’re not allergic to. And some folks — they're just excited to have a healthy meal prepared for them,” she said.

Bersnak loves the creative outlet Beautiful Soup provides and enjoys the challenges of growing a business. But managing it all is no easy task. “I am no Campbell’s Soup,” she said. As her business quickly expanded, the stay-at-home mom knew she also had to allow time for her children, husband, friends and spiritual life. “It’s a work in progress,” she said.

Right now, her weekly deliveries have stopped as she takes a “soup sabbatical” to work toward USDA approval of her product. She recently partnered with an incubator kitchen in Haymarket, which helps entrepreneurs such as food trucks or Beautiful Soup get off the ground. She also hopes to sell her products through AmazonFresh.

“(Getting) a quality, farm-to-table bowl of soup to your family as (easily) as ordering Chinese takeout makes a lot of sense to me,” she said.

Mimicking the slow and steady process of creating bone-broth, Bersnak hopes — with time — she will find solutions for her business and her everyday life.

“I love this opportunity as a millennial, Catholic mom. I love that it’s on trend and I love that it’s a throwback,” she said. “I love that it’s helping me be a better mom.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017