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.

James Barber


eatrustic
 Share

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 .

Link to comment
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

Link to comment
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

Link to comment
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.

Link to comment
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

Link to comment
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:

Link to comment
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

Link to comment
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.

“Who loves a garden, loves a greenhouse too.” - William Cowper, The Task, Book Three

 

"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

 

Link to comment
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

Link to comment
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.

Link to comment
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

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 weeks later...

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

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 weeks later...

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.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Similar Content

    • By SobaAddict70
      I LOVE pickled ginger. In fact, in some instances, moreso than sushi or sashimi itself. When I was first introduced to sushi, it was my least favorite part of a sushi meal. Now it's the opposite.
      Besides sushi/sashimi, what other uses for pickled ginger are there? And how do you make your own? What goes in the pickling solution? Fresh pickled ginger (not premade) is undyed and a pale beige in color, whereas the premade version is a slight tawny pink.
      Any suggestions?
      Soba
    • By Smarmotron
      What sorts of mustards do you like? The type of mustard I like is pungent without a hint of sweetness (fie upon honey mustards), but not too vinegary. Inglehoffer's Stone Ground tends to be rather good, but it's got a little too much vinegar (overpowers the taste of the mustard). What sorts of mustards do you like? Any brands? Or do you make your own?
    • By Eldictator
      Any ideas on how I could put a honey centre in a jelly pastille
    • By Keith Orr
      Sorta Secret Aardvark Sauce (Habenero Hot Sauce)
      I thought I'd submit my recipe which is a clone of a locally available sauce here in Portland OR called Secret Aardvark Sauce.
      Sorta Secret Aardvark Sauce
      1 – 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes or roasted tomatoes chopped - include the juice
      1 – 14.5 oz of rice wine vinegar. Use the now empty tomato can to measure
      1-1/2 cups of peeled and grated carrots (packed into the measuring cup)
      1 cup of finely diced white onion
      1/4 cup of yellow mustard
      1/3 cup of sugar
      2 teaspoons of Morton’s Kosher Salt
      1 teaspoon of black pepper
      13 small Habaneros – seeded and membranes removed. (This was 2 oz. of Habaneros before cutting off the tops and removing the seeds and membranes)
      2 teaspoons curry powder
      1 cup of water when cooking
      5 or 6 cloves of garlic - roasted if you've got it
      Put it all in the crockpot on high until everything is tender. About 3 hours  Note: I used the crockpot so I don't have to worry about scorching it while it cooks. 
      Whirl in food processor – Don’t puree until smooth – make it lightly/finely chunky.
      Makes 3 pints - To can process pint jars in a water bath canner for 15 minutes
      I've thought about making this with peaches or mangoes too, but haven't tried it yet.
       
      Edited for clarity on 11/9/2020
       
      Keywords: Hot and Spicy, Carribean, Condiment, Sauce, Easy, Food Processor
      ( RG2003 )
    • 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.
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...