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

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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A Keremeos family lost their home after a fire shortly before midnight on April 13. No injuries were reported. (Contributed)
Keremeos home destroyed in late-night fire

The family inside was unharmed

An Interior Health nurse administers Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aids in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16, 2021. (Phil McLachlan/Kelowna Capital News)
105 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

Just over 8,000 new vaccine doses administered in the region for a total of 158,000 to date

Campfires are allowed within the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, but open burning season comes to an end April 15 at midnight. (Black Press file photo)
Open burning season ends in Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen

Campfires are permitted, following provincial guidelines

Send your letter to the editor via email to news@summerlandreview.com. Please included your first and last name, address, and phone number.
LETTER: Name is spelled incorrectly

For 100 years, the Garnett name has been spelled incorrectly as Garnet

Send your letter to the editor via email to news@summerlandreview.com. Please included your first and last name, address, and phone number.
LETTER: Development will start disintegration of Summerland

I am in favour of affordable housing but voting for a rezoning does not address this serious issue

Arlene Howe holds up a picture of her son, Steven, at a memorial event for drug overdose victims and their families at Kelowna’s Rotary Beach Park on April 14. Steven died of an overdose at the age of 32 on Jan. 31, 2015. (Aaron Hemens - Kelowna Capital News)
Moms Stop the Harm members placed crosses Wednesday morning, April 14, on Rotary Beach in memory of children lost to drug overdoses. (Aaron Hemens - Capital News)
Kelowna mothers remember children lost to the opioid crisis

It has been five years since illicit drug deaths was announced a public health emergency

Demonstrators at the legislature on April 14 called on the province to decriminalize drug possession and provide widespread access to regulated safe supply across B.C. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
Rally calls for decriminalization, safe supply on 5th anniversary of overdose emergency declaration

From 2016 to the end of February, 7,072 British Columbians died due to overdose

Naloxone
Op/Ed: Interior Health CEO speaks on five years of strides and challenges in overdose crisis

In 2020, close to 4,000 people across IH had access to opioid medications

Somewhere in the pack being celebrated by his teammates is Vernon Vipers forward Zack Tonelli, who scored in overtime Wednesday afternoon, April 14, to give the Snakes a 6-5 win over the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in B.C. Hockey League pod play at Kal Tire Place. (Liza Mazurek - Vernon Vipers Photography)
Vernon Vipers bite Salmon Arm Silverbacks in OT

Snakes blow 5-3 third-period lead, rally in extra time for 6-5 pod play result over rivals

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Feb. 1, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps to 1,168 Wednesday, nearly 400 in hospital

Now 120 coronavirus patients in intensive care, six more deaths

Moss covered branches are seen in the Avatar Old Growth Forest near Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island, B.C. Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. blockades aimed at protecting old-growth forests reveal First Nation split

Two Pacheedaht chiefs say they’re ‘concerned about the increasing polarization over forestry activities’ in the territory

Okanagan Falls Volunteer Fire Department, photo from Okanagan Falls Volunteer Fire Department Facebook page
The Okanagan Falls Volunteer Fire Department. (Facebook)
South Okanagan fire crews battle two blazes one-after-another

The two fires were likely caused by discarded cigarettes according to the fire department

Richmond RCMP Chief Superintendent Will Ng said, in March, the force received a stand-out number of seven reports of incidents that appeared to have “racial undertones.” (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
‘Racially motivated’ incidents on the rise in B.C’s 4th largest city: police

Three incidents in Richmond are currently being invested as hate crimes, says RCMP Chief Superintendent Will Ng

Most Read