James Barber aimed to make good food accessible to regular folk. Through his television show “The Urban Peasant” and through his thirteen cookbooks, he taught ordinary people, with ordinary kitchen skills, how to prepare good, simple food using seasonal, local ingredients.
Chef Barber spent his retirement years on a four hectare farm here in the Cowichan Valley. He raised miniature donkeys, was an active volunteer, and continued both to love food and to write about it. He died at the age of 84, sitting at his dining room table, reading a cookbook, while a pot of soup simmered on the stove. His wife commented said “he definitely left this world in a way that he would have wanted to."
As part of the Cowichan Wine and Culinary Festival this week, local chefs are hosting an event which will both honour James Barber and benefit one of my favourite valley places; Providence Farm.
Providence Farm was established in 1864 by the Sisters of Saint Ann and has, since 1979, been a working organic farm operated by a non-profit organization. The farm provides vocational and horticultural therapy to persons with mental health issues, developmental delays, and brain injuries. It is a happy productive place in a beautiful setting, producing healthy food and a variety of crafts for sale in the farm store, and live plants for sale in the nursery. The farm also rents allotment garden space to community members who don’t have access to garden space at home, and provides stables and riding trails for the Therapeutic Riding Association.
James Barber had hoped to provide the staff and community members at Providence Farm with a wood burning oven. This year’s fundraiser will launch the wood burning oven project by offering a tasting menu prepared by local chefs. As guests tour the farm they will find stations throughout the historic buildings, offering beautiful food paired with local beer, wines and ciders.
The participating chefs for the fundraiser include Bill Jones from Deerholme Farm, Fatima da Silva from Bistro 161, Brad Boisvert from Amusé Bistor, Brock Windsor from Stone Soup Inn, Paul Stewart from Harbour House Hotel, Jonathan Duquette from Rock Salt Café, Matt Horn from Cowichan Pasta Company, and special guest Robert Clark from C Restaurant.
Besides benefiting a wonderful cause, this event affords people an opportunity to gain an appreciation of what Providence Farm does for our community while enjoying great food and drink in a beautiful, tranquil setting.
If you would like to attend the James Barber Fundraiser, it takes place Thursday, Sept. 15, from 6:00 to 9:00 pm. Tickets are $100.00 each. Ticket information is available by phone at (250) 746-4204 or on the Providence Farm website: www.providence.bc.ca. You can email the farm at firstname.lastname@example.org.