barber-james

James Barber, 84, died at his home on Vancouver Island. His wife says he was preparing a pot of soup. ((theurbanhub.com))

Cookbook author and television chef James Barber, who appeared on CBC-TV for 10 years as The Urban Peasant, has died.

The 84-year-old food enthusiast lived his final years on a four-hectare farm in Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island, where he bred miniature donkeys and tended to his fruits and vegetables.

His wife, Christina Burridge, says her husband died of naturalcauses Thursday at home.

"As far as we can tell, James was sitting at the dining room table, he was reading a cookbook, and he had a pot of soup simmering on the stove. So he definitely left this world in a way that he would have wanted to, but I think he would have been pretty upset about the timing," shetold CBC News.

Barber was known worldwide, as The Urban Peasant was sold to at least 120 countries. He is alsothe author of a dozen cookbooks, two books on where to eat in Vancouver and one children's book.

Barber's last book, One Pot Wonders, was released in July.

In fact, one of his bestselling cookbooks, 1971's Ginger Tea Makes Friends, is credited with helping establish publishing house Douglas & McIntyre.

Barber was an effusive cook who eschewed the snobbery and gourmet trappings of the world of food. Friend and food journalist Don Genova says Barber helped make cooking accessible.

"Through his TV shows, especiallyThe Urban Peasant, he showed that you didn't need fancy ingredients, you didn't need fancy knife skills. You could just do it," notes Genova.

COOKBOOKS BY JAMES BARBER
Ginger Tea Makes Friends
Fear of Frying
Flash in the Pan
James Barber's Immodest but Honest Good Eating Cookbook
Quick and Simple
Mushrooms are Marvellous
Peasant's Choice
Peasant's Alphabet
Cooking for Two: The Urban Peasant
Peasant's Choice: More of the Best from the Urban Peasant
Peasant's Alphabet: More of the best from the Urban Peasant
One-Pot Wonders: James Barber's Recipes for Land and Sea

"His cookbooks were exactly the same. They were meant to get people back into the kitchen."

Upon the republication earlier this year of his cookbook for couples, Cooking For Two, Barber told the Georgia Straight newspaper, "This is not a book for Barbara Amiel," he surmised in reference to the well-known luxury tastes of the writer and wife of former newspaper baron Conrad Black.

"I teach people that in the winter you eat a lot of cabbage because it's cheap."

Moreover, he chose ingredients that were easy to get:"It's all corner-store stuff."

Barber was also a regular contributor to various Canadian publications, including Western Living magazine, Vancouver magazine, the National Post, Pacific Yachting and the Vancouver Province.

Before landing in the kitchen, Barber would explore different careers: sailor, physicist, actor, musician, choreographer, salesman, miner and fisherman.

Active in his community, Barber had alsoserved aspresident ofa Vancouver immigrant society, MOSAIC, a non-profit organization that addresses issues affecting immigrants and refugees,and the Vancouver Folk Music Festival Society.