A new bursary has been started for North Island College culinary students in honour of Ruth ‘Rootitoot’ McCusker. The Campbell River woman passed away earlier this year, but was known to tens of thousands online as an Instant Pot expert. Photo provided

Family of B.C. Instant Pot expert starts endowment in her honour

Ruth ‘Rootitoot’ McCusker Wilkowski Memorial Bursary Endowment Fund to benefit NIC culinary students

A B.C. woman’s culinary legacy continues to live on digitally and will now help support North Island College (NIC) students.

Ruth “Rootitoot” McCusker of Campbell River was well-known in the online Instant Pot recipe community. She shared her family recipes, which were adapted for the counter-top kitchen appliance, with a loyal online following and had self-published two cookbooks.

McCusker passed away earlier this year after a brief illness. She was 65.

RELATED: PHOTOS: NIC tourism and hospitality students serve up Fall Feast

But McCusker’s – also known as Rootitoot, a childhood nickname given to her by her father – legacy is living on.

Her children, Brian Wilkowski and Linda Ramos, have set up an endowment with the NIC Foundation to honour their mother’s memory and to support students who are interested in pursing a career in the culinary arts.

“She was passionate about cooking and so this seemed like a perfect way to honour her memory,” said Wilkowski in a press release. “It’s so fantastic how many lives she’s touched over the last couple of years. Even when she found out that it was going to be a terminal diagnosis, she was grateful for what she had experienced, especially in the last portion of her life.”

McCusker first became active in the online Instant Pot community on Facebook in 2018, according to her obituary in the Vancouver Sun.

She ended up starting her own group, Rootitoot Instant Pot Recipes & Help, which has grown to more than 100,000 members. (Her family continues to run the group.)

“Many were drawn to McCusker’s unmistakable sweetness – she began most posts with the words, ‘Good morning, O Best Beloveds.’ But she was also endlessly helpful, spending the majority of her waking hours fielding queries and developing recipes as needed,” wrote Harrison Mooney in the Sun.

McCusker altered many of her recipes,”treasured family heirlooms” that were developed over four decades to be suitable for the One Pot. She had recipes for Beef Stew and Rootitoot Cinnamon Pork Chops; Rootitoot Cheesecake and Rootitoot Lemon Curd; even Rootitoot Scalloped Potatoes and Rootitoot Sweet Potato Dream. She offered tips and tricks to her “flowers,” the name given to the group’s members.

RELATED: Practice makes perfect for Culinary Team BC

When one of her flowers posted: “Hubby went squirrel hunting n [sic] brought one home. How long in pot whole?” McCusker entertained the question, despite growing up in Banff National Park where squirrels were her “friends and pets.”

“WHOLE?” she responded, “You want to cook it WHOLE? I’d cut that little beggar up into tiny tidbits. Lots of onion and garlic. 1 1/2 cups of squirrel broth. Badger broth if you’re fresh outta squirrel broth. 12 minutes HP. 15 NR. I hear squirrel drumsticks are delish.”

Further down the thread, she follows up with a recipe for “Rootitoot Squirrel Stew” where she refers to preparing the “cute little squirrel” because “I, Rootitoot, am all about the recipes right?”

She was remembered by writer (and One Pot user) Katie Baker in another obituary, this time published on the online sports and popular culture website, The Ringer.

Baker calls McCusker “pure digital sunshine” and her Facebook group, “a place that would become one of the most cherished, cheerful corners of my internet life.”

The group, now at 102,342 members, continues to grow. But McCusker also had a website, where followers could find recipes and order the two volumes of her self-published cookbook. It’s on this site and the Facebook group that her family notified followers that McCusker had died. It’s also where Wilkowski and Ramos began a fundraiser and matched donations. The final tally, $42,862.48 (after being matched by the siblings) will be put into the Ruth “Rootitoot” McCusker Wilkowski Memorial Bursary Endowment Fund and will be put towards a yearly award for an aspiring culinary student.

“We’ll never be able to fully appreciate the entire significance of what we’ve done here,” a message signed “Ruth’s family” on the website says. “This will have a lasting impact on countless lives, just as Ruth’s recipes and help have also had a truly unimaginable lasting effect on all of us.”

As one flower wrote on her website: “I, like many, feel as if I have lost a friend even though I had never met her. She gave us confidence and a place to laugh together over our ‘mistakes.’ Her influence will still be present in generations ahead.”


@marissatiel
marissa.tiel@campbellrivermirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Campbell RiverNIC

Just Posted

Victoria Humane Society takes revenue hit after donation bins vandalized

Organization removes clothing donation bins after contents removed, scattered

South Island Transportation Strategy looks to reduce reliance on personal vehicles

EV charging stations, bike lockers, new park-and-ride stalls among solutions in Capital Region

Vancouver Island police officers sporting personalized face masks

Masks for Central Saanich officers will feature the crest and individual officer pin numbers

Victoria police seek suspects in series of bear spray attacks

Police responded to several calls Saturday evening

COLUMN: COVID-19 statistics are the stories of people

This pandemic is ultimately about people, not just about numbers

Weekend sees 267 cases, 3 deaths in B.C.; Dr. Henry says events leading to COVID spread

There are currently 1,302 active cases in B.C., while 3,372 people are under public health monitoring

Canada’s population tops 38 million, even as COVID-19 pandemic slows growth

Immigration, the top population driver, decreased due to the pandemic

Cook Street Village grocery icon closing, new owners plan major renovation

Louie family has operated Oxford Foods and predecessor for five decades at Cook and Oxford streets

Transformative ‘Centre of Hope’ coming to Port Hardy

With the new building, the Salvation Army will be able to run the shelter year long.

Alberni Valley Tyee Club announces ladder board winners for 2020

The overall winner was Morgan Steed with a 31.8-pounder from Whittlestone Point

Voting now ready for Oak Bay’s Arts Alive 2020 sculptures

Audio and written descriptions posted for all 10 sculptures

Lightning strike: Tampa Bay blanks Dallas 2-0 to win Stanley Cup

Hedman wins Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP

16 MLAs retiring from B.C. politics add up to $20M in pensions: Taxpayers Federation

Taxpayers pay $4 for every dollar MLAs contribute to their pensions

Liberals seek to fast track new COVID-19 aid bill after CERB expires

Government secured NDP support for legislation by hiking amount of benefits by $100 to $500 per week

Most Read