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Real name Bonnie Azab Powell
Ethicurean name Dairy Queen (defunct—I stopped using the pseudonym around May, when I went freelance again)
E-mail me: dair…@ethicurean.com
Why’d you pick that? Because I love all milk products and I’m bossy.
Paying job Freelance tech and food writer
Dream job Novelist or cheese taster
Best meal ever A five-course tasting menu centered on seafood at Masa’s in San Francisco during the dot-com circus.
Favorite meat Pork (bacon, ham, chops, sausage — what a “maaaagical animal”!)
Favorite fruit Strawberry
Favorite vegetable Tomato (I know this is cheating)
Vegetables I eat only to be polite Cabbage. Brussel sprouts. Okra.
Favorite dinner growing up Steak and a sour-cream vehicle (aka baked potato)
Processed crap I can’t manage to live without Haagen-Daz coconut ice cream, sugarless gum
Sexiest food to me Raw oysters, despite the cliché
Most embarrassing cooking incident A chocolate birthday cake that mysteriously tasted like pumpkin and weighed like 14 pounds.
Most traumatic food experience Being forced to sit at the table until I ate cold chipped beef on toast — a favorite dinner except that my mother had hidden hardboiled eggs in it, which I detested.
Attitude about sell-by dates If it doesn’t smell bad or have mold growing on it, I’ll eat it. And if it’s cheese, I’ll just cut the mold off.
Has your cooking ever made anyone sick? Well, it did help uncover a shrimp allergy my husband wasn’t aware he had.
Food background: I was raised in a family that loves to talk about food and celebrates cooking and eating.
When I was 7 we moved from North Carolina to Naples, Italy, where we lived for three years. I hated my first pizza because it was so unlike what I was used to. I thought it was oily and the cheese (buffalo-milk mozzarella) was weird. Thankfully, I soon learned to love pizza margarita con prosciutto, which my favorite pizzaman would let me make myself at Ristorante Al Pruneto, in the Posillipo area of Naples. (That’s Aldo on the left of Lil’ Dairy Queen in the first picture, with his wife to my right and my mom behind me.) He’d stretch and toss the dough, and then I’d sauce it and put on the little slices of mozzarella di bufala and prosciutto and watch him slide it in to the woodburning oven. I’m drooling just thinking about it.
I went to high school in New Orleans, which gave me an appreciation for butter. In college I worked briefly at the best restaurant in a small Virginia town, where I learned a bit about wine (such as very few varietals taste good at 9:30 a.m. when you’re hung over and trying to learn them before the lunch shift). I moved to England for graduate school in 1993, and luckily became a vegetarian at the same time — right before mad-cow disease hit. I saw a lot of horrifying news photos of bovine funeral pyres while I was there.
By 1997 I was living in California and enjoying the array of vegetarian-friendly offerings at San Francisco’s top restaurants (making the most of a dot-com expense account). I stayed a vegetarian until 2002 when the confluence of two forces pushed me back into meat-eating: moving in with an all-meat-all-the-time partner (aka The Potato Non Grata, who often appears in these posts), and reading Michael Pollan’s New York Times Magazine essay An Animal’s Place. That essay, which looks at ethicist Peter Singer’s arguments very seriously and then carefully refutes them, persuaded me that I could become a born-again carnivore, as long as I was careful and conscious.
I was inspired to start the Ethicurean (but Omniwhore came up with the name!) after reading Pollan’s latest book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and pestering him about which particular brands of milk, eggs, beef, etc. the Pollan household buys. He wouldn’t tell me. “You should figure it out for yourself,” he said. “Everyone has to decide which values are important to them.” And therein was the problem. I was lazy! I wanted Berkeley Bowl and Whole Foods to evaluate the choices and present them for me, pre-approved. But that’s not going to work anymore — there’s too much money at stake, in the form of corporate profits and government tariffs, to trust supermarkets or the USDA and FDA. In order to enjoy my food again, I was going to have to get off the couch and go to farmers’ markets and research what I was eating. I thought as long as I was playing food detective, I might as well share what I was learning in a blog.
A few friends — either already wrestling with the same challenges or intrigued by kicking their food consciousness up a notch — volunteered to join me. The more cooks, the better in this case, we think … and we can always use a few more.