The Urban Peasant Died

james barber urban peasantI just read that James Barber died. He was the host of a cooking show called The Urban Peasant. I learned to cook by watching his show. It’s one of the few good things I ever got from watching TV.

I watched more than a few episodes where he was in the middle of making something, couldn’t find some ingredient he thought he had, and said, “Okay, we’ll use something else then!” It was this attitude of cooking with whatever you happened to have in the fridge or cupboard that turned me on to cooking. Which is still the way I cook today. I don’t measure or follow recipes when I cook. I just take a quick look at what I’ve got and I make the most of it.

From watching James Barber cook, I learned what basic combinations of ingredients work, and as long as you have that general idea of what not to do, you can make it up as you go along. Not only are the results interesting when you cook like this, it’s fun. If cooking was a chore, I’d never do it.

I’ve watched other cooking shows over the years, but most seemed to focus on celebrity guests cooking things you can never replicate. For me, The Urban Peasant was the best. Whenever I’m standing over a stove whipping something together, I’m always following his example. He was a good cook.

About Phillip

Phillip Cairns is a beekeeper in St. John's, Newfoundland, who writes about beekeeping at

10 Replies to “The Urban Peasant Died”

  1. I liked him as well – make due with what you have. The only problem I have is when it turns out terrific, I don’t remember what I did and can’t replicate it later.

    Jeff Smith
    was also a big influence for me – speaking strictly about cooking.

  2. the urban peasant was a very strange sloppy chef. sad he died but not a good chef

    I don’t know about that. He had a philosophy to cooking that’s liberating for people afraid of the kitchen, which can look kind of sloppy, especially compared to other cooking shows where everything is nicely chopped up and measures into little glass bowls all over the counter. He may not have been a good chef, but the man was a hell of a cook.

  3. I loved James Barber, his show not only made me relax, enjoy, and learn, but often had me giggling and smiling throughout the day, when I would recall his style, absolutely liberating, of hippie and flair. He was a big influence in my cooking style which I share with my son now.

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