By Olivia Crisara
Before the aperitif was a fun Instagram trend (think snaps of bright Aperols by the colosseum) Europeans used the pre-dinner drink as what its original Latin translation directly means, an opening of the stomach.
It was first found initiated in Piedmont in the 18th century when King Vittorio drank a spiced white wine called vermouth as his pre-dinner drink. Then, in 19th-century Tuscany, Count Camillo Negroni accidentally invented a vermouth-based concoction appropriately called the Negroni. A sour-tasting alcoholic bitter.
Bitter is an uncommon flavor that has largely disappeared from our modern palate. Bitter foods and herbs were a common part of the ancestral diet and are still used in Chinese medicine and Ayurveda with huge benefits to body and mind. Herbal bitters are an old medicine remedy for what seems to be an ever-increasing problem, weak digestion.
Stress is the biggest factor that depletes our digestive system over time, as it shunts blood flow away from our digestive system leading to reduced digestive juices. Combine this with a diet high in processed food, irregular meals, overeating or excess coffee/alcohol and the digestive system is exhausted. Signs that you are not digesting well include bloating, nausea, indigestion, heartburn, loose stool or constipation, headaches & lymphatic fluid.
Digestive bitters are herbs that support digestive function by stimulating bitter receptors on the tongue, stomach, gallbladder and pancreas. Their primary effect is to promote digestive juices such as stomach acid, bile and enzymes to breakdown food and assist in the absorption of nutrients.
There are many different types of bitters to incorporate into your pre dinner ritual. You could start by eating a medium sized bowl of Rocket or Radicchio with some cold pressed olive oil before you start your meal, make sure to chew slowly & mindfully. Others to try include Dandelion, Bitter Melon and Swedish Greens.
Through modern eating culture we have lost our connection to food, and its therapeutic qualities. It’s time we become self-aware to create sustainable health, instead of fighting disease and discomfort after it's too late.