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

Taylor Bachrach
Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Taylor Bachrach.
Progress being made on infrastructure spending for Northwest: Bachrach

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP says per capita funding is triple the provincial average

Public Land Fees have been waived. Originally $250 per season and $250 per parking stall made unusable; restaurants can now apply to pop-up patios free of charge. (Jacob Lubberts photo)
VIDEO: District of Kitimat waive patio fees for local businesses

These short-term measures will be determined on an individual basis

The Nechako Centre building was a retail space built in 1955. The building is now vacant and is listed for sale for $4.4Million. Sitting on 0.72 acres, the building is currently under a redevelopment/revitalization process. (Jacob Lubberts Photo)
Nechako Centre teardown in Kitimat for sale at $4.4 million

B.C. assessments valued the property at $843,000 with a land value of only $492,000

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

Raising more than $1,300 for the KVHS’s dementia home project, Dennis and Brenda Horwood leave Kitimat with a bang and start their new retirement journey together. (Photo supplied)
KVHS thanks local Kitimat couple for their contributions to the dementia home project

Dennis and Brenda Horwood raise $1,360 during a retirement garage sale

Public Land Fees have been waived. Originally $250 per season and $250 per parking stall made unusable; restaurants can now apply to pop-up patios free of charge. (Jacob Lubberts photo)
VIDEO: District of Kitimat waive patio fees for local businesses

These short-term measures will be determined on an individual basis

Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth speaks to media at the Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday February 5, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to announce travel restrictions today to limit COVID-19 spread

Mike Farnworth is expected to give details of what the government views as essential travel

Richard Desautel with supporters outside the courthouse in Nelson, B.C., in 2016. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
BREAKING: Sinixt, First Nation bordering Canada-U.S., can claim Indigenous rights, top court rules

The decision essentially reverses a 1956 declaration the Sinixt were extinct

MLA Shirley Bond, right, answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on February 19, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Former B.C. gaming minister says she wasn’t told directly about dirty cash flowing to casinos

Shirley Bond said Thursday civil forfeiture, gang violence and gambling addiction were also major concerns in 2011

RCMP Constable Etsell speaks to tourists leaving the area at a police roadblock on Westside Road south of Fintry, B.C., Thursday, July 23, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Yvonne Berg
B.C. police say they take ‘exception’ to conducting roadblocks limiting travel

Asking the police to enforce roadblocks exposes officers to further risk and possible COVID-19 infections, says federation president Brian Sauve

As part of the province’s strategy to combat the opioid overdose crisis, take-home naloxone kits have been distributed throughout the province. (Courtesy of Gaëlle Nicolussi)
Vancouver Island could be at its worst point of overdose crises yet: medical health officer

Island Health issued overdose advisories for Victoria, various communities in the last two weeks

BC Hydro released a survey Thursday, April 22. It found that many British Columbians are unintentionally contributing to climate change with their yard maintenance choices. (Pixabay)
Spend a lot of time doing yard work? It might be contributing to climate change

Recent BC Hydro survey finds 60% of homeowners still use gas-powered lawnmowers and yard equipment

Journal de Montreal is seen in Montreal, on Thursday, April 22, 2021. The daily newspaper uses a file picture of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dressed in traditional Indian clothing during his trip to India to illustrate a story on the Indian variant of the coronavirus. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press
Montreal newspaper blasted for front-page photo of Trudeau in India

Trudeau is wearing traditional Indian clothes and holding his hands together in prayer beside a caption that reads, ‘The Indian variant has arrived’

Most Read