Friday Dec 07, 2007

In Memorium : James Barber

James Barber, the Urban Peasant, died last week. He died peacefully sitting at his kitchen table reading a cookbook while attending a pot of soup on the stove. Very apropos.

I started watching the Urban Peasant TV show in the early 1990s around the same time I started cooking on a regular basis. I found the cozy, low stress, loving, and joyful world that James created in every episode very inviting. It was nearly the complete opposite of my super high stress, intense, demanding and occasionally hostile work life in a software startup. "The Urban Peasant" became my constant night time unwind program. Over the years I learned a lot from watching James but more importantly I adopted many of his attitudes and approaches towards food and cooking. A simple meal can be the best meal. Improvisation and creativity are as important as the ingredients. Let every trip to the framers market inspire you. Make joyful food.

I am not sure if James' background as an engineer and his way of thinking about the world were part of why his work struck such a chord with me, but, especially after hearing Don Genova comment that James was a bit eccentric in a nerdy sort of way, I've decided it must be the case. Don has two excellent podcasts about James on his site. Don says he learned a lot from James about food and was grateful for having known him. Though I did meet James once at the Calgary Stampede and spoke to him on CBC during a callin show I never knew him and Don should feel very lucky that he did. Don highlighted many of the same things he learned from and loved about James as I have. James made a lasting positive impact upon many people and that's the best thing to be said about someone's life, no?

My lunch today was a homemade pasta dish which I hope James would have approved of. A sliced smoky sausage, chopped onions and red pepper, frozen corn and a few brussel sprouts all sautéed in a single pan (of course) with a small amount of oil and paprika and black pepper for seasoning. I served it over rotini pasta. It was delicious, comforting, reasonably healthy, simple and took less time than going down to the corner for a burrito or nuking a frozen dinner.

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