Wanda of Wanda's Cooking
I first crossed paths with Wanda hoping to partner with her for The Nourishment Fund, intending to purchase her meals and distribute them to our recipients. Wanda told me that she wanted to provide the meals as a donation. Surprised at this generosity, I insisted that I would pay her for our partnership, but Wanda doubled down. Not only would she provide the meals for free, but she would also fundraise amongst her friends and family, donating the money raised to the fund.
Her kindness did not stop there. For her donated meals, Wanda provided a full on feast of roast buttermilk chicken, jambalaya, fried corn, sweet potato cornbread, salad, peach cobbler, and a jar of her chow chow. This meal was a full on treat for our recipients, because as you can tell from even just looking at her food, Wanda can down in the kitchen. I can confirm this statement because in picking up the meals to deliver, Wanda also insisted I get a meal, too.
Tap in and support Wanda by following her on @wandas_cooking. Stay tuned for information on how to order her food for pick up, and in the meantime you can purchase her jarred Chow Chow and her Cajun Spice Blend on her (brand new!) website.⠀
BAYDISH: What are your earliest memories of cooking?
WANDA: When I was 13 my mother had gotten all the ingredients for the thanksgiving dinner and she got sick. I cooked the dinner - Turkey, cornbread dressing, fresh string beans etc. The fall out was the sweet potato pie -- I'll just say it wasn't good.
BAYDISH: What have you learned since starting your pop up in 2015?
WANDA: Planning, patience and flexibility are key -- with the support of good people - you can't do it alone.
BAYDISH: You've hosted pop-ups with themes like Sunday Cooks and Church Ladies (Grandma’s house on Sunday) and Wanda’s Cooking loves New Orleans. Why do you like to have thematic pop ups? What do you feel it offers your guests?
WANDA: All of my best past memories involve people and food -- it's not like it was when I was younger and people gathered outside of holidays for socializing and food. I want my food to bring back memories of food and people - theme events setup the atmosphere.
BAYDISH: As a San Francisco native, how have you seen the food industry in the Bay change over the years?
WANDA: Very few family owned and run places. Even less Black operated and owned. Check out the audio story on my website.
BAYDISH: You make and sell (an absolutely delicious) Pepper Chow Chow. Why did you decide to sell Chow Chow? Why is it special to you?
WANDA: I was actually going to open a take-out place and the deal fall through - literally got a vision of Pepper Chowchow and thought go for it. It's special because it a traditional Southern condiment but mines has a different twist and I feel it's a gift from my ancestor who made and eat the traditional "cabbage, onion and bell pepper" version.
BAYDISH: What’s the best meal you’ve eaten lately?
Well lately means no food from my favorite places/Chef's to eat. Dining in is definitely a part of a great meal. So, I cooked a Dungeness Crab with fresh garlic, ginger, jalapeños, red bell peppers -- garnished with scallions and Sweet Pepper Chowchow.
BAYDISH: Something that stands out about you to me is your extremely generous, caring spirit. Where do you feel you learned this from?
WANDA: Watching the older people around me when I was young. My mother still has friends from high school -- these are my aunts and uncles and their kids are my cousins. My mother is 85 yrs old. Watching and working for the business owners in my neighborhood. I know a lot of people like me -- your a perfect example of a caring spirit.
BAYDISH: What are you most proud of?
WANDA: Being 61 years old and being able to share my experiences, old and new.
BAYDISH: What's next for you and Wanda's Cooking?
WANDA: It's all about getting my production levels up to meet the demand of Pepper Chowchow. Once I get that under my belt, I can start with my original plan, "take out pop-up meals". I miss coming out of the kitchen and going to the tables and chatting with people about their food experience in eating my food. With COVID, I won't be coming out to a dining room - but I want people to feel I just came out of their kitchen when they eat my take-out food at home.⠀