Roger Ebert Can't Eat, But He Wrote a Cool Cookbook
In a cooking-centric New York Times profile, 68-year-old Ebert is shown as a man much enamored with food to this day, regardless of his circumstances.
"I love spicy and Indian," he wrote on a notepad -- he can no longer speak. "Food for me is in the present tense. Eating for me is now only in the past tense. I can remember the taste and smell of everything, even though I can no longer taste or smell."
The onetime 'At the Movies' host spoke of his "voluptuous food memory," saying he fantasized about root beer and candy for weeks after his surgery. Steak 'n Shake has been a touchstone in Ebert's post-food days; he contends the chain and his Illinois heritage are inseparable. While Ebert can't recall his last meal or some of his finer dining experiences in life, trips to Steak 'n Shake are so vivid he spent hospital time visualizing meals at the diner, bite by bite.
Ebert's new book, 'The Pot and How to Use It: The Mystery and Romance of the Rice Cooker,' stems from a wedding gift he and wife Chaz Ebert received.
"It's all experience, my visuals and friendly tasters," Ebert wrote about the book. "I've used The Pot so very many times I know what everything I make in it MUST taste like. I am a quick, direct, practical and simple cook, which is why the rice cooker had such an appeal to me."
He uses the seemingly simple machine with a slew of ingredients, experimenting with settings and ordering the cooking "so that everything [doesn't] turn to mush," the Times writes.
Chaz vouches that her husband's inability to eat doesn't affect his skill in the kitchen, particularly with the rice cooker. "Whenever Roger learns anything, he becomes obsessed with it," she said. So obsessed, in fact, he brought the rice cooker to Sundance Film Festival once so he could munch on more than popcorn during long movie sessions.
"When he says he misses the camaraderie of eating, that's what he misses more than the food," O'Brien said.
Who exactly is the book intended for? Ebert says it best: "I am thinking of you, student in your dorm room. You, shut-in. You, recovering campaign worker. You, movie critic at Sundance. You, sex worker waiting for the phone to ring. You, factory worker sick of frozen meals. You, people in Werner Herzog's documentary about life at the South Pole."
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