Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Sign in to follow this  
eatrustic

James Barber

Recommended Posts

As has been widely reported in the Vancouver media James Barber passed away at his home in Vancouver Island a few days ago.

I wanted to pay tribute to the man as he is one of the giants on the food scene in Vancouver and as often happens to those who live a long life their accomplishments can tend to fade from memory. There is so much more to James then Money's Mushrooms or the Urban Peasant.

I won't pretend to give a bio on his life as I have not been acquainted with his professional career for that long but I first became aware of his talent when I moved to Vancouver in the mid 80's. At the time he was writing the restaurant column for the Georgia Straight (for which he won national awards) and his weekly offerings were nothing short of brilliant as he combined a lovely turn of phrase with hands down the most informed food knowledge of the era. It was a pleasure to discover little out of the way ethnic restaurants that were described in loving detail and with obvious knowledge of the cuisines. This was in stark contrast to the pompous and mainstream food reporting of the time.

What has struck me most about James as I've crossed his path over the years in some Asian market, charity auction or restaurant is his pure and unadulterated love of all things food and wine. He really was the foodie's foodie. He would talk to anyone who approached him with a question about food or restaurants with unbridled enthusiasm and an absolute lack of ego (so refreshing and rare). I ran into him one day on the street a few years back and he hauled me over to his car to show me this brand new gadget he had found at Lee Valley. It was one of the very first Micro Plane graters. He pulled out a lemon and started zesting away with real excitement at his find.

His success in later years (at a time when most of us would have been in a rest home) with his Urban Peasant tv show, his columns in Van Mag, a new cookbook (along with his tireless support of many good causes) is a nice cap to a well lived life.

My condolences to his wife (and fellow food and wine expert) Christina Burridge .

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sad news indeed.

I met him just once at a book signing in Toronto ten years ago. A gracious man who leaves behind a substantial body of work - he'll be missed.


Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I just heard this on the CBC, I am heartbroken.

Farewell, sweet James!

(Eatrustic, wonderful and thoughtful post!)


Edited by Sherry B (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm so sad to hear about his passing! I quite liked his show, though I can't say I always liked the things he cooked. He always seemed like such a nice man--like a grandfather everyone would love to have!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, James Barber was a hero to me; I was grew up watching the Urban Peasant. I never really thought too much about the food, I just loved his attitude. After watching the show for a while, I thought, hey, I can do this! So I started playing around in the kitchen and eventually ended up going to cooking school. Mr. Barber, we will miss you. You taught us much more than just how to cook.


"Bells will ring, ting-a-ling-a-ling, ting.... the bell... bing... 'moray" -John Daker

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

James Barber was kinda like a adventurous grandfather who would take you out and introduce you to food that you would otherwise not try. And like a grandfather - it is almost shocking the void that is left behind when they move on. You think that it can't be possible that he is no longer with us.

I'll echo the sentiments of eatrustic and say that he was the first local food writer to really revel in the wealth of ethnic cuisine that we have in Vancouver. His enthusiasism and sheer joy of food was infectious.

When I think of Mr Barber, I think of a pot gently bubbling away, friends and family coming over for dinner, and the warm glow of a good meal shared. His life was indeed lived well.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I met him once, and I was so star struck that I could not manage to string a few words together.

And that is something to behold.


Neil Wyles

Hamilton Street Grill

www.hamiltonstreetgrill.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
When I think of Mr Barber, I think of a pot gently bubbling away, friends and family coming over for dinner, and the warm glow of a good meal shared.  His life was indeed lived well.

I could not have put it better. I've been a fan of his show forever. I think I probably watched more than half of his shows for the enjoyment of watching him enjoy cooking more than to learn how to make something.


"There are two things every chef needs in the kitchen: fish sauce and duck fat" - Tony Minichiello

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A wonderful tribute eatrustic-Thanks for posting.

My first memoy of James Barber was a cooking show on CoOp Radio-Yes radio!

Just the sound of things sizzling in the pan and his low key avuncular manner were enough to rivet my attention-it was the first I'd ever heard of Basmati Rice to this day there's rarely anything else in my pantry.

Quite agree about his bringing the wealth of local ethnic cookery into mainstream focus quite unlike anyone else.

There'll never be anyone like him again..... :sad:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ginger Tea Makes Friends, James Barber's first cookbook, was also the first cookbook I bought for myself. It was inspiring and liberating, especially after Betty Crocker and high school Home Economics.

Barber wrote for hermits, spinsters, basement suite dwellers, hungry drunks, lovers, the broken hearted, and the totally incompetent - in other words, real people.

Here's James from the introduction to Ginger Tea Makes Friends:

Cooking is the simplest way of saying “I love you”. That may sound pretentious as hell, but if you accept it essential, your cooking will improve – and so will your love life.

There is so much mystique in the kitchen, all mixed up with social acceptance, and fancy linen, and the right kind of spoons. … I have a lot of pots and pans, but mostly I use a heavy iron frying pan with a lid.

Measure out some spoonfuls, see how they look in your hand, then forget the spoons and start feeling your food as you cook it.

That’s really the secret – touch it a bit.

And an introduction to a recipe:

Slightly Pretentious Pork Chops

When you are in a hurry is no time to eat.  This a very simple, very easy and very satisfying dish that gives you at least half an hour to sit and reflect on the injustices the world has this day wrought upon you. … The ingredients are in most corner stores, so, even at midnight, if you want to cook, you can do it – if you have wine.

And, if you haven’t, use apple juice. It will taste different.  Not better, not worse …but just different

Thank you James - goodbye.


Cheers,

Anne

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I lived in Vancouver for most of the 80's, and I loved Barber's restaurant reviews. The Urban Peasant was the first cooking show I made a real point of watching...to this day, I think, about the only one I sought out consistently.

He was entertaining and knowledgeable, and his food made sense to me. It was simple, it was quick, it was easy, and he used what was on hand. To the end of my days, I will remember his beaming face explaining that you could deglaze the pan for such-and-such a dish with wine, or cider, or apple juice, "...but today we're going to use water, because that's what we've got."

I can imitate his "...that's what we've got" very well indeed; it was a great catchphrase of his that I adopted in fun.

Barber inspired me to be more adventurous and improvisational in the kitchen; on some levels perhaps he set me on the course that ended in me becoming chef of my own restaurant. Be that as it may, I will always be indebted to him, and I will always remember him fondly.

I can't help feeling happy for him, though, in one respect. So many people die miserably, in pain or fear: James died peacefully at his kitchen table; a cookbook in front of him, a pot of chicken soup simmering on the stove, and his longtime love somewhere not far away. I should be so lucky, when my time comes.


"The only questions that really matter are the ones you ask yourself."

Ursula K. Le Guin

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ginger Tea Makes Friends, James Barber's first cookbook, was also the first cookbook I bought for myself.  It was inspiring and liberating, especially after Betty Crocker and high school Home Economics. 

Barber wrote for hermits, spinsters, basement suite dwellers, hungry drunks, lovers, the broken hearted, and the totally incompetent - in other words, real people.

Here's James from the introduction to Ginger Tea Makes Friends:

Cooking is the simplest way of saying “I love you”. That may sound pretentious as hell, but if you accept it essential, your cooking will improve – and so will your love life.

There is so much mystique in the kitchen, all mixed up with social acceptance, and fancy linen, and the right kind of spoons. … I have a lot of pots and pans, but mostly I use a heavy iron frying pan with a lid.

Measure out some spoonfuls, see how they look in your hand, then forget the spoons and start feeling your food as you cook it.

That’s really the secret – touch it a bit.

And an introduction to a recipe:

Slightly Pretentious Pork Chops

When you are in a hurry is no time to eat.  This a very simple, very easy and very satisfying dish that gives you at least half an hour to sit and reflect on the injustices the world has this day wrought upon you. … The ingredients are in most corner stores, so, even at midnight, if you want to cook, you can do it – if you have wine.

And, if you haven’t, use apple juice. It will taste different.  Not better, not worse …but just different

Thank you James - goodbye.

Nice post, Barolo.

I still have my copy of Ginger Tea Makes Friends, stolen from my parents' bookcase. I love the silly comic strip drawings. My dad learned how to cook from that book and other Barber books, so my family owns Mr. Barber a huge debt.


The sea was angry that day my friends... like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli.

George Costanza

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

i used to make mr. barber his skim-milk capp. in the correct specified cup everyweek for a year in Cowichan. he was a crusty bugger, but he was kinda limpin around at that point, so maybe he was in pain.

he was a fixture and default food icon in the cowichan valley and it gave him alot of space and play when it came to food/menu consultation and events. i remember my humble-to-death friend coming home one night after running a cooking workshop for bill jones, pissed cuz ol granpa james held court on japanese cuisine for like an hour before making way for the guy who actually knows the cuisine to do the work.

he was human. he wasn't a teddy bear.

and he was the first person i can recall from childhood tv who was visibly, contagiously excited by food.


Drew Johnson

bread & coffee

i didn't write that book, but i did pass 8th grade without stress. and i'm a FCAT for sure.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When a friend of mine, who couldn't boil water to save his life, became a bachelor a couple years back, I bought him a copy of Barber's Urban Peasant. It saved his life: simple, no-nonsense recipes that take the mystery out of cooking. I still make his sausage and cabbage strata. RIP.


Paul B

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

On a recent trip to a charity store I found a copy of James Barber's "Immodest but Honest Good Eating Cookbook". It's not going to find its way into my collection so if anyone is interested I will be happy to mail it off. Canadian addresses only please.

The first person to PM me will be the new owner.

Edited to add: The book has found its new owner.


Edited by Anna N (log)

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

James Barber was sent off in style today when 250 of Vancouver's top chefs, restaurant owners and media along with friends and family gathered at Sun Sui Wah restaurant on Main St. for a feast of Dim Sum, Braised Abalone, Chili Crab, Roasted Squab and more.

James had asked for a get together in a chinese restaurant with friends to celebrate his passing and it was a great occasion with tons of remembrances and laughs to send off one of the true greats of the Canadian food world.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Similar Content

    • By markovitch
      A while ago, to learn the ins and outs of Horseradish, I began making my own mustard. I have managed some really really good varieties, (one with black mustard seeds, rice-wine vinegar, horseradish and Kabocha squash) and some really god awful ones too. I recall that my grandmother used to make her own ketchup too. it wasn't all that good.
      has anyone made their own condiments before?
      care to share experiences?
    • By Lisa Shock
      The basic formula for these cakes was developed by the wife of a mayonnaise salesman in an effort to help him out. I did a bit of research, and have found many variations. Early variants generally involve using less cocoa, which I cannot recommend. Later variants involve using cold water instead of boiling, adding salt, and additional leaveners. I personally do not feel that any additional salt is needed, as mayonnaise and that famous, tangy brand of salad dressing (sometimes the label just says 'Dressing') both contain a fair amount of salt. If you are using homemade mayonnaise or a low sodium product, an eighth teaspoon of salt may boost the flavor a bit. And, of course, somewhere along the way fans who prefer a certain salad dressing over mayonnaise started using it to make this cake. Nowadays, the Hellman's website has a different formula -one with added eggs and baking powder. I have not tried this newer formulation.
       
      Some versions of this recipe specify sifted cake flour. This will result in a very light cake with virtually no structural integrity, due to the paucity of eggs in this recipe compared to a regular cake. Cupcakes made this way give beautifully light results. However, every time I try to make a traditional 8" double layer cake with cake flour, I experience collapse. I recommend AP flour or at least a mix of cake and pastry flour.
       
      I have never made this with a gluten-free flour replacer. This recipe does not have very much structural integrity and as such does not make a good candidate for a gluten-free cake.
       
      I have made this cake many times, the type of sandwich spread you choose will affect the outcome. Made with mayonnaise, the cake has a good chocolate flavor and moistness. Made with that famous, tangy, off-white salad dressing that gets used as a sandwich spread, the cake has a subtle bit of extra brightness to the flavor. If one chooses to use a vegan mayonnaise, the result is tasty but lacking a little in structure; I would bake this in a square pan and frost and serve from the pan.
       
      The cocoa you use will also affect the flavor.  For a classic, homey flavor use a supermarket brand of cocoa. To add a little sophistication, use better, artisan type cocoa and use chocolate extract instead of the vanilla extract.
       
      Supposedly, the traditional frosting for this cake should have a caramel flavor. Look for one where you actually caramelize some sugar first. Modern recipes for the icing seem like weak imitations to me; using brown sugar as the main flavor instead of true caramel.
       
      Chocolate Mayonnaise or Salad Dressing Cake
      makes enough for two 8" round pans, or a 9" square (about 7 cups of batter)
       
      2 ounces/56g unsweetened, non-alkalized cocoa
      1 cup/236g boiling water
      1 teaspoon/4g regular strength vanilla extract
      3/4 cup/162g mayonnaise, vegan mayonnaise, or salad dressing (the tangy, off-white, sandwich spread type dressing)
      10.5ounces/300g all-purpose flour
      7 ounces/200g sugar
      0.35ounce/10g baking soda
       
      Preheat your oven to 350°.
      Grease or spray two 8" round pans or an equivalent volume square or rectangle.
      Place the cocoa in a medium (4-5 cup) bowl. Add the hot water and stir with a fork to break up any clumps. Allow to cool down a little,  then add the vanilla extract and the mayonnaise or salad dressing spread. Beat well to eliminate lumps. In the bowl of an electric mixer or larger regular bowl if making by hand, sift in the flour and add the sugar and baking soda. Mix the dry ingredients to distribute evenly. Slowly beat in the cocoa mixture. Mix until the batter has an even color. Pour immediately into the pans. If making two 8" rounds, weigh them to ensure they contain equal amounts.
      Bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until the center of the top springs back when touched lightly. (The toothpick test does NOT work well on this moist cake!) Allow the cake to cool a little and shrink from the sides of the pan before removing. Removal is easier while still a little warm.
      Good with or without frosting.
      Good beginner cake for kids to make.
       
       
       
    • By Sheel
      Prawn Balchao is a very famous Goan pickle that has a sweet, spicy and tangy flavor to it. 
      For the balchao paste you will need:
      > 8-10 kashmiri red chillies
      > 4-5 Byadagi red chillies
      > 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
      > 1/2 tsk turmeric powder 
      > 1 tsp peppercorn
      > 6 garlic cloves
      > 1/2 tsp cloves
      > 1 inch cinnamon stick
      > Vinegar 
      First you will need to marinate about 250 grams of prawns in some turmeric powder and salt. After 15 minutes deep fry them in oil till them become golden n crisp. Set them aside and add tsp vinegar to them and let it sit for 1 hour. Now, make a paste of all the ingredients mentioned under the balchao paste and make sure not to add any water. In the same pan used for fryin the prawns, add in some chopped garlic and ginger. Lightly fry them and immediately add one whole chopped onion. Next, add the balchao paste amd let it cook for 2-3 minutes. Add in the prawns and cook until the gravy thickens. Finally add 1 tsp sugar and salt according to your taste. Allow it to cool. This can be stored in a glass jar. Let this mature for 1-3 weeks before its use. Make sure never to use water at any stage. This can be enjoyed with a simple lentil curry and rice.
    • By sartoric
      I make this a lot. Traditionally served with dosa, but great with all kinds of Indian food, even just scooped up with bread or pappads for a snack. Although it's slightly different every time, depending on the tomatoes and chillies used, plus the strength of the tamarind, it's easy, quick to make and always delicious.
       
      In a blender - half a medium red onion chopped, 7 dried red chillies broken up a bit, 2 ripe tomatoes chopped, 1 tsp of sea salt, 3 tsp tamarind paste.

       
      Whizz until purée like about 2 minutes.

       
      In a sauté pan over medium heat add 60 ml sesame oil (gingelly), when it's hot but not smoking add 1 tsp black mustard seeds.   

       
      Quickly cover the pan to prevent escape and sizzle for a minute.

       
      Add 1 tsp of urad dal (black lentils, skinned and split they are light grey).

       
      Fry until golden, another minute or so.

       
      Throw in about 20 curry leaves. These splatter so cover the pan again. 

       
      Lower the heat and add the  blender contents.

       
      Simmer, stirring frequently for about 10 minutes, until you get a runny jam consistency.
       
      Ta da !

    • By HoneyMustard
      Pennstation's Honey Mustard taste so good, but they don't sell it in stores like Big Boy Frisch's sells their tartar sauce.

      I am assuming they buy it in bulk from a certain name brand. Does anyone know what that brand is or at least a similar Honey Mustard recipe?
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...