Now unable to eat or drink, Roger Ebert remembers the joy of dining

Now unable to eat or drink, Roger Ebert remembers the joy of dining

Roger Ebert before falling ill with thyroid cancer (Photo by Will Perkins) 

Food news rarely comes by way of Roger Ebert, but the film critic recently wrote rather poignantly for the Chicago Sun Times about the very act of eating—and not eating. Multiple surgeries to treat Ebert’s thyroid cancer have left him unable to speak, eat or drink. He is now fed intravenously and must use a computer to communicate. We were quite moved by the personal essay, which details how he can still vividly remember every detail of certain meals. At Steak ’n Shake, a U.S. restaurant chain, Ebert used to order the same items at every visit, then eat them in a specific way—he describes the entire meal bite by bite. He also re-imagines the experience of drinking root beer out of frosty mugs with his father. His memory is best, though, for the taste and texture of cheap candy, the kind found at cinema confection stands, like Red Hots, Good and Plenty, Milk Duds, Paydays and Chuckles.

What Ebert misses most isn’t the food itself, so much as the experience of dining out. He writes that most recreational talking is done around meals, discussion he can no longer participate in, except as a passive observer. He considers the jokes, gossip, laughs, arguments and shared memories that stem from dining together the saddest part of his loss.

• Nil by Mouth [Chicago Sun-Times]