|Born||Wanda J. Pollock
May 4, 1988
New York, NY
|Occupation||Freelance Food Critic and Aspiring Chef|
Wanda J. Pollock (born May 4, 1988) is a food enthusiast, critic, and aspiring chef who considers the preparation, consumption, and overall enjoyment of food to be a religion in itself--and one for which she is very grateful. Ever since she found it nearly ten years ago, her religion has graciously sustained, inspired, and comforted her, and in the name of that religion, she happily admits to being in the business of conversion.
Family Background and Early Life
Wanda J. Pollock was born on May 4, 1988, at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York, NY. She almost died in the womb from accidentally ingesting feces. Wanda considers this early moment a definitive one and a major reason why she has such a great relationship with food today: once you’ve literally eaten shit, you’re up for trying any cuisine because you think, “Well, hey, it’s got to be better than shit.”
Wanda’s parents are James Carlisle Pollock, a history professor, and Shirley Lancaster Pollock, an aspiring actress turned homemaker. Though it’s difficult to get her to admit it, Shirley spent the first eighteen years of her life in Luverne, AL; she left her hometown in December of 1983 to pursue her elusive dream in New York City, and it was there, a year later, where she met Carlisle under an awkward mistletoe (see List of Stories). They married in October of 1985 in his parents’ modest backyard on Long Island. The guests were small in number and did not include Shirley’s family. They did, however, include Martina Pollock, a distant cousin who represented the “Jackson” line of Pollocks. Shirley made sure Martina had a front-row seat for the ceremony, and still now, twenty-six years later, the only Pollock family member she ever discusses in book club or spinning class is Martina.
Wanda is an only child. Growing up, she always wanted her parents to adopt a boy from Ethiopia, partly because she couldn’t stand the thought of all of those little starved, orphaned babies on television infomercials with bloated stomachs but mainly because she considered it a moral sin to leave a child completely alone with no siblings during its formative years. Beginning at age five, Wanda constantly overcompensated for her lack of siblings by sharing with everyone everything that ever came into her possession. This quality mainly served her well in social situations except during Christmas and her birthdays: family and friends were hesitant to give her presents because they knew she would keep them only for so long before generously offering them to any physical body within eyesight.
In 1996 when Wanda was eight-years old, Yale University offered James Pollock a highly coveted professorship. While her father prepared that summer to teach arrogant, over-eager eighteen-year olds about John C. Calhoun and other deeply misunderstood 19th-century Southern political figures (“heroes,” as he liked to call them), Wanda busied herself with finding ways to ensure that she and her best friend Pauly would remain best friends forever, in spite of her family’s impending relocation to New Haven the following fall. She legitimized their special bond through a complicated ritual that involved mixing her saliva, blood, and deliciously tart lemonade with Pauly’s blood, and vice versa; she gave away to him important treasures and heirlooms, such as a favorite (but long dead) hermit crab’s shell, a wheat penny from 1932, and the detached head of her prettiest porcelain doll; she spent countless post-dinner hours with him in their pillow-and-blanket fort, devising a plan (in case things got really rough for the both of them) to run away from home and meet at the bus stop in Montauk. Her family moved to New Haven late that August, and the following January, Pauly’s mom died of a rare heart condition, after which he was shipped off to Singapore to live with his hitherto absent father and his new wife. (Wanda has seen Pauly only once since then. They were twenty, and he visited her at Bard for a weekend. On a golden Saturday afternoon in early October, 2008, the “blood brother and sister” shared a fascinating mushroom trip, went skinny-dipping in a cold, isolated lake, and had wild, splintery sex on top of an old rickety dock. As far as sex goes, it was wonderfully passionate but also such a huge departure from the safety and comfort of their lemonade-and-pillow-fort days that afterward, they couldn’t look each other in the eye for the rest of the weekend. They haven’t spoken since, and neither can pinpoint which is more regrettable: the sex or the silence.)
Middle and High School
Wanda attended the Hopkins School in New Haven from seventh grade through the end of high school, except for a brief four-month stint at the beginning of ninth grade during which her mother Shirley attempted to homeschool her daughter. Wanda still to this day cannot be certain as to what possessed the very non-academic Shirley to remove her daughter from an excellent school and teach her herself, but she assumes it had something to do with Shirley’s staggering levels of insecurity. Having abandoned her dreams of working in show business (at least outwardly) after she birthed Wanda, Shirley developed a severe sense of pride that she has since, for the past 23 years, used as a hefty crutch. Wanda didn’t learn much from her mother in the vein of traditional academic schooling, but she must give credit where it’s due and acknowledge that it was her mother’s daily cooking class—with its baking, frying, roasting, steaming, sautéing, and stewing techniques—that introduced her to the rich and idiosyncratic nature of truly good food. And even though Shirley’s Southern roots prepared her especially for cooking delicious meals and being a superb hostess, one rarely spotted her ever actually eating food. Shirley was obsessive about remaining thin, and she tried her best to transfer this obsession onto her daughter but was unsuccessful. So, although Wanda hated her mother for trying to make her hate the food she taught her to cook, she also is forced to admit that she wouldn’t be the aspiring chef or genuine food enthusiast she is today without Shirley.