Television host Ellerbee roams around the world and through her memories, one meal at a time.
Ellerbee (Girl Reporter Blows Lid Off Town, 2000, etc.) is known in the industry as a straight-shooter, and the voice that got her fired from NBC is back with a vengeance in the third volume of her memoirs. Warm and brisk, utterly conversational, way beyond sassy, Ellerbee is afire to share the lessons she’s picked up and the dishes she’s consumed in her first 60 years of making an impact. During her Texas childhood, she was convinced that her mother’s fudge pie played a large part in her popularity. In a newly opened Vietnam, she conceived a passion for Pho, and in Bolivia (her first foreign tour—as a teenage missionary), she learned to love street food. There is no real discernible pattern to these extended meditations, although there are themes. Recollections of her very young folk-singing days are followed by an account of cruising on Malcolm Forbes’s yacht, that then followed by a piece about feeding the hungry in inner-city Baltimore. A revelation about the surprising comforts of cruise ships is placed next to her account of reporting from Afghanistan—post-Taliban, pre-stability. Ellerbee’s injustice radar still has a hair-trigger—targets include the wealth of the church in the poorest of nations, and any society that seeks to restrict women in any way. Many of her essays are about the difficulties of growing older. Though the pieces can be sharp and sappy by turns, sometimes in the same paragraph, Ellerbee’s charisma and immediacy operate like a tractor, drawing the reader smack into the heart of how it is to be a cancer survivor, to lose your parents, to be alone—or to raft down the Colorado, watch your children marry, or whip up a Frito Pie.
All in all, a great ride with a homegrown American original.