Food & Drink » Glenda Bartosh on Food

Food and drink

What’s in your fridge? On the shelves with bike fixer and cream lover, James Barrett



James Barrett confesses with a laugh that what he eats is probably 180 degrees opposite of what most people would imagine. For this former road bike racer and current owner/chief bike fixer/parts manufacturer at The Fix in Function Junction, it’s not all carrot juice and complex carbs these days.

“If it’s got cream in it I want it,” James says from his home in The Glades at Spring Creek that he shares with his wife — artist and filmmaker Rebecca Wood Barrett — and their year-old son, Oliver.

In fact, his diet these days is pretty much a rejection of all things — including bananas — that fuelled him through years of bike racing back in Sydney, Australia. This in combo with food he couldn’t eat, like all things dairy and fatty that are mucous-inducing and/or hard for the body to break down.

The latter, however, are not Becky’s favourites. Still, they’ve managed to find a middle ground until James “lashes out” and chugs a whole bottle of milk, or enhances his side of a pizza with an extra three inches of mozzarella, while Becky takes hers straight up.

In the end, she does most of the cooking, and baking, turning out everything from strudels to fabulous banana bread (that’s how James gets his banana fix), with James tossing in a creamy or BBQ’ed dish every so often.

As for the fridge, it’s only steps from the front door, a big black GE number (notice the “big”) facing the rear of the house. It came with the condo, circa mid-1990s, when black appliances were happening.

It’s a Tuesday evening when James and I go through the family fridge. Normally on Tuesdays, he and Becky get a delivery from SPUD (Small Potatoes Urban Delivery) in Vancouver. But not this Tuesday, which is likely a good thing as not much else could fit.

After all his ranting about high-fat dairy, it’s funny that the first thing he lays his hands on is a liter of two per cent milk, three-quarters empty. The homogenized stuff — the real stuff, he calls it — went with him to work, where a stash of Cheerios awaits.

Beside the milk is Sun-Rype Apple Juice and a bevy of assorted containers, including purple Tupperware with an aqua green lid containing cherry tomatoes. Others hold carrots, celery and brightly coloured peppers — green and yellow — chopped into bite-sized pieces for Oliver at daycare, chopped red onion, and something creamy. There’s also a jar of medium Tostitos Salsa nearing its due date.

Next is something that evokes his Australian origins — what James calls a punnet of organic strawberries — plus a jar of Smucker’s raspberry jam, Polski Ogorki dill pickles (Becky’s), and something else that evokes his roots and is absolutely his. You guessed it: a big, near-empty jar of Kraft Vegemite, with its bright red and yellow diamond-shaped label that almost glows in the dark.

Yay! I was hoping we’d come across a jar of Vegemite — in fact, there’s two of them — and my first question is, where do you buy it here?

“You don’t,” says James. “You can’t get it anymore. What I’ve heard — and it’s totally anecdotal — is that Kraft wouldn’t spell out what the first ingredient, yeast extract, is so the Canadian government wouldn’t let them bring it in anymore.”

James gets his Vegemite fix from a friend who regularly travels to Australia and brings a jar back for him every time.

And how do you eat it?

“The best way is the way I grew up eating it — on toast for breakfast, preferably whole grain, with lots of butter or margarine,” he says. “If you don’t butter it, it’s too dry because you don’t put tons of it on. You use a little scraping, not like peanut butter where you put on a dollop.”

The black goo, which he likens to axel grease, is so salty you can smell it; a jar lasts him a year. So the cases where you hear of someone giving a “friend” a Vegemite sandwich and slathering it on like Nutella may be a case of macho, with Aussies doling it out to the wienies who don’t know any better.

But back to the fridge, where we’re still only on the top shelf: There’s a big tub of Becel, more containers, one with Greek salad, and a liter bottle of Omega 3,6,9 oil blend (Becky’s), plus two kinds of cheese, three kinds of olives, including one for martinis — James is a big olive and martini fan — and a pumpkin loaf that Becky’s mom brought up on a visit for Oliver’s first birthday.

There’s also two kinds of butter, a can of Sleeman’s Honey Brown Lager and an assortment of fresh fruit, including organic seedless grapes, from where James cannot say.

While he and Becky buy local/organic/fair trade (would the acronym for that be LOFT?) as much as they can, including produce from Pemberton farmers, they don’t stop themselves from buying things shipped long distances. That said, he points out that SPUD also tries to source locally as much as they can, plus they indicate the aggregate distance each order has travelled, usually under 1,000 km for everything in the box.

Above the top shelf there’s more cheese and fruit, a jar of bouillon, more food for Oliver and some tofu, which James teasingly describes as embarrassing. Below, on the shelf above the crispers are yogurt tubs of several types, veggies, tortillas, and an opened bottle of Okanagan Vineyards 2005 Chardonnay with one glassful remaining from a dinner party with friends from Squamish, Chris Jones and Sharon Smith, who’ve just gotten back from Tibet, where they spend months as guides and filmmakers.

In the deli drawer are cold cuts, two kinds of eggs and more cheese; in the crispers are an assortment of veggies, including something manky that gets tossed.

The fridge door is home to maybe 10 different dressings from the Gucci to the ordinary for the salads they have each night plus an assortment of sauces and condiments, perfect for another of James’s favorites — a marinade for barbecued meat, say a good beefsteak, made with RedHot, Dijon mustard, sesame oil, soy sauce and a splash of beer. Let the meat marinate for two or three hours and off you go. Think of James while you’re enjoying, and be glad it’s sans Vegemite.


Glenda Bartosh is an award-winning freelance writer who could use a second fridge just for condiments.

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