- - Thursday, April 26, 2012

Daytime talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres may be an outspoken vegan today, but a life without meat or dairy wasn’t always easy for her to, er, digest.

Raised in New Orleans and Texas, the talk show host said she always had a healthy appetite for sausage-laden red beans and rice, as well as for thick, juicy steaks. She first tried to quit meat 15 years ago, she said in an Associated Press telephone interview, but lasted only six months.

“I’ve always called myself an animal lover. And yet I ate them,” she said. “Until four years ago I would be driving past these cows on pastures, and think ‘What a lovely life that is,’ and I’d go and order a steak. It takes a click, just one light bulb, and you’re like ‘I can’t do that anymore.’ “

The click that lit that bulb for Ms. DeGeneres came by way of chicken four years ago. “Someone mentioned ‘If you knew what chicken looked like or you knew how chicken was made, you’d never eat it again,’ ” the Emmy Award-winning comedian said. “Something snapped.”

Since then, Ms. DeGeneres and her wife, actress Portia de Rossi, have purged their diet of all animal products, including milk and eggs. It wasn’t easy this time around, either.

But this time, she said, she forced herself to watch gruesome video footage and undercover documentaries shot by opponents of the meat industry, and to read books on the subject. The images that stuck in her head from the films and the books helped her stick to her choice. But so did something much simpler — good food.

It helps that she and Ms. De Rossi have a personal chef.

Roberto Martin, author of the new book “Vegan Cooking for Carnivores” (Grand Central Life and Style, 2012) — which includes many of the recipes he created for the couple — made the transition easier by serving them dishes such as sliders made with veggie patties and smoked tempeh, Greek salad with “tofeta” (vegan feta cheese made of tofu), ceviche made from hearts of palm, and beluga lentil “caviar” complete with buckwheat blinis.

He even re-created Ms. DeGeneres‘ beloved red beans and rice.

‘GMA’ loses newly won ratings crown to ‘Today’

“Today” was back atop the morning-show ratings for the week ending April 20 — one week after ceding its 852-week winning streak to a surging “Good Morning America.”

NBC’s “Today” averaged 5.25 million viewers, besting ABC’s “GMA” by 243,000 during a week when Matt Lauer returned to the morning show after a week-long vacation.

Mr. Lauer’s co-host, Ann Curry, self-deprecatingly referenced the toppling of “Today’s” historic winning streak at the New York Women in Communications Matrix Awards on Monday. Citing her “great bosses, especially the exceptional men I get to work for today,” she added, “Im not sucking up, even though recent ratings events might dictate that I should.”

“Today” also bested “GMA” in the advertiser-coveted 25-to-54 demographic, the 886th consecutive week it has done so.

Endowment for the Arts giving smaller grants to PBS

The National Endowment for the Arts has awarded significantly smaller grants to established PBS programs this year.

“Live From Lincoln Center” received no funding under the 2012 Arts in Media grants. Last year it received $100,000.

The Metropolitan Opera received $50,000 for its “Great Performances at the Met” telecasts, $100,000 less than last year.

WNET-TV in New York received $50,000 for “American Masters,” compared to $400,000 in 2011.

PBS President Paula Kerger told the New York Times that the cuts are disappointing. She said PBS will “have to scramble and try to fill the gap.”

Other PBS programs that saw cuts were “The PBS NewsHour” and “Independent Lens.”

The endowment did for the first time award large grants to gaming, mobile and Web-based projects.

Jennifer Morrison to return for ‘House’ series finale

The series finale of “House”just became a little more magical.

“Once Upon a Time” star and “House” alum Jennifer Morrison is set to return to the show following her 2009 departure from the medical drama, TVLine reports. The cameo will take place in the show’s final episode, airing May 21.

Kal Penn, Amber Tamblyn and Olivia Wilde are also set to return.

In March, Ms. Morrison told Entertainment Weekly she was not expecting to return to the series as she had not been approached. “No one’s contacted me [about returning], and we’re way too close for it to even be a possibility,” she said at the time. “It was an incredible part of my life. … It changed my life in so many wonderful ways.”

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