MANY of the milestones in James Barber's life were strangely connected to cookbooks.
The late TV chef and author met wife Christina Burridge when she came to appraise his cookbook collection.
He wrote 19 of his own cookbooks, upon which his show, The Urban Peasant, was based.
He died suddenly on Nov. 29, 2007, sitting at the table in his Vancouver Island kitchen, with a pot of chicken soup simmering on the stove. He was reading a cookbook.
"For someone who claimed he despised formal recipes James was obsessed with cookbooks," said Burridge earlier this week, on the phone from a sojourn to Ucluelet.
"When there were just getting to be too many, I would sometimes sneak books out to get rid of them. He would go down to the secondhand bookstore and come back with the same book, and say 'Look what I found!'"
At the time of his death, his collection numbered more than 1,300 titles, and according to Burridge it runs the gamut from the 1960s to the early 2000s. In their Cowichan Island home there was enough shelf space for both of their books.
"But when I moved back to the city I didn't have room." Burridge boxed up his collection, and considered simply donating the books.
Then she reconsidered.
"I thought about it and realized James would be happier if the books went to people who would appreciate them. He'd like knowing they went to good homes."
Six months ago she began sorting through the boxes and set aside many that she couldn't part with. During further sorting, she decided to add even some of those back into the collection.
On Sept. 23, from noon to 5 p.m. Barber's substantial library of cookbooks will be offered in an informal "trunk sale" at Barbara-Jo's Books to Cooks.
"I don't think there's anything hugely valuable, but it's a very eclectic, very interesting collection," said Burridge.
As evidenced by his TV programs, columns and books, Barber brought fun and curiosity to all things culinary - and his cookbook collection reflects his eclectic taste.
Everything from classic European to frugal (one of his favourite categories), and with some excellent reference books, sale-goers are bound to find something special for themselves or as gifts. Out of James' first cookbook, Ginger Tea Makes Friends, Barbara-Jo's will be serving ginger tea, ginger cookies and Gingertinis to book sale attendees.
Money raised by the sale will be donated to the non-profit Providence Farm (www.providence.bc.ca), which helps the challenged and disadvantaged. It was an organization that Barber actively supported.
Barbara-Jo's Books to Cooks is located at 1740 West Second Ave. (a half block east of Burrard St.) in Vancouver's Armoury District; www. bookstocooks.com.