about Asher Radkowsky
Searching for a stunningly delicious, nutritious, animal-and-earth-friendly frozen dessert, I came up empty-handed. My conclusion: I would have to create this product myself.
I was born and raised in the Washington, DC area, and started cooking at age five. My first creation: bologna on white bread with ketchup.
From that point on, I always enjoyed working in the kitchen...though over the years my taste in food changed a lot. I became a vegetarian in 1995, after watching Ruffy, a dog pal of mine, kill a mouse on the sidewalk. Realizing that the mouse was another sentient being with a soul, out for an evening's stroll just like I was, I resolved then and there to stop eating other animals.
I love eating a rich and delicious diet that respects all life, and also has a positive impact on our health and on the health of the planet. (Fun fact: The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization has estimated that nearly a fifth of the world's greenhouse gases are generated by livestock production, more than by all forms of transportation combined.) And because I love being healthy as much as I love to eat, I dedicate myself to making amazingly indulgent food that is actually great for you.
Ice cream has always been a favorite (make that essential) food for me, and figuring out how to make healthy ice cream has been my holy grail. My first "great" idea in the late 1990s: ice cream made with skim milk and stevia. Luckily, the high-end ice cream machine I bought for this experiment was defective; when I pressed the button to make my first batch, nothing happened, so this bad idea never got off the ground.
As I continued to think how to make a healthy frozen dessert that would be worth eating, I began thinking about approaching this project as a green business idea.
I earned my undergraduate degree in economics from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and worked afterward as a financial analyst, but found the pursuit of finance to be rather unfulfilling.
One life-changing day, a friend lent me Paul Hawken's "The Ecology of Commerce: A Declaration of Sustainability." This fascinating treatise showed me that the pursuit of commerce did not have to be soulless or environmentally unfriendly. In fact, I learned, business can actually be an enormously powerful force of positive change for human societies and for the planet. As I read Hawken's book, I realized that I wanted to start a green business, one that would benefit all life on earth, and the health of the earth itself. I sensed that a "green" ice cream would be my route toward accomplishing these goals, but could not figure out how to develop such a product.
In the Summer of 2007, inspiration finally struck. On the checkout line with a fellow soymilk-drinking vegetarian friend, I was browsing through an "Utne Reader" article detailing the health problems associated with soy.
"Don't worry," my friend told me when I shared what I was reading. "I've been off soy and drinking hemp milk for months now."
"How do you make milk out of a rope?" I asked. I vaguely thought that hemp was either heavy rope or a fancy word for marijuana.
Very soon, I learned that hemp is the low-THC cousin of marijuana, and that hemp seeds are powerfully nutritious. I also learned that hemp is an amazing plant that can provide environmentally-friendly alternatives for almost all of humankind's needs.
That's when I conceived the idea to make vegan gelato, using hemp milk (hemp seeds ground in water) as my base and, for an even healthier product, agave as a low-glycemic sweetener.
Since then, I have spent many, many hours in my kitchen developing Zendulgence, with the help of a commercial gelato machine I purchased. Making and tasting hundreds of batches of gelato has been an extremely rough job, but the results have been worth the effort. I am thrilled and grateful to be able to offer Zendulgence to the dessert-consuming public, and I hope you will enjoy it!