Marilyn Pocius has been writing, cooking, and eating weird things all her life. More than 20 years as a writer and creative director for various ad agencies gave her a chance to do television ads for Kraft and Kellogg’s, print ads for Mazola and Mrs. Dash, and even spots for the Food Network. While working as a freelancer, she has written content for EthnicGrocer.com and has done articles for both the Chicago Tribune and the Local Palate, where she is also a contributor. For the past year she has written the food column “In Season” and has been a regular contributor for 48 Pioneer Press papers.
Pocius grew up on the southwest side, where she learned that Chicago is a collection of ethnic neighborhoods (hers was Lithuanian). She also learned that cultures were defined by food and cooking. Her mother gardened and one of her earliest memories is shelling and eating fresh peas in the back yard. She used to make recipes from Julia Child for teenage chums who were puzzled, but grateful. In college she studied French, Chinese, and Russian, and graduated with a BA in Linguistics from the University of Wisconsin.
She lived in Los Angeles for five years where she learned to appreciate sushi, Thai food, and Mexican cuisine. She then spent eight years in New York, and discovered Indian food and spice stores, real home cooked Chinese food, and authentic Chinatown grocery stores. She also traveled and worked in France, England, and Germany before returning home to Chicago after the birth of her daughter.
Pocius now lives in an 80-year-old home in Oak Park with her teenage daughter, Genevieve, her calico cat Sophie, and her mutt Purdie. All three generally appreciate her cooking. Genevieve sometimes complains, “Can’t we just order pizza like normal people?” But she has learned to love Indian curries, green papaya salad, and spinach risotto among other things.
Her love of cooking led her to get a degree in professional cooking from CHIC (now Cordon Bleu), taking classes nights and weekends while working full time. She is an amateur herbalist and organic gardener and likes to grow unusual vegetables and exotic herbs. She is also active in the local food scene and a member of AIWF and Culinary Historians of Chicago.