Guilt is not an ingredient

James Barber, author, columnist, radio personality and one of the best known television cooks in the world (he prefers not to be labeled a chef), has become an icon in his home country of Canada. He’s been called the “pied piper of simple” and the “king of reductionism” because he can reduce a recipe from 10 steps to three without losing its essence. Barber is available for download at .

The most widely used ingredient in North American kitchens is guilt. There’s hardly a dish cooked without it. Pepper… salt…thyme ÔÇô they’re the standards, maybe a little curry powder or, for those who like things hot, a couple of good pinches of cayenne. We go through the recipes like astronauts at countdown, checking and double checking, how many teaspoons in half a millilitre, how medium is an onion and is a cup still a cup even if it’s made of glass?

These are all the small guilts ÔÇô the little worries that are as basic to all kitchens as the kitchen sink. Butter is a medium guilt, along with the extra-virgin olive oil (“ours just says Virgin, will that be okay?”) and “room temperature” ÔÇô how do you take the temperature of a room? With a thermometer tucked under the carpet?

Finally we get to the really big guilts, like garlic, because somehow we know that nobody eats it, despite the indisputable fact that 112,000 lbs was produced in B.C. last year. So we sneak it in to our cooking, with our eyes closed, as though it were an accident (“My hand slipped!”).

Wine is another big guilt (“will they know it had a screw-top?”) and from then on things get worse and worse and guilts of all shapes and sizes accumulate like odd socks in the laundry basket. The china’s wrong, the salt isn’t sea salt, the peppercorns don’t come from Madagascar but from Kitchener, Ontario, and the pastry, the bread, the steak and even the tomatoes just don’t look like they should.

And neither do we. We look in the mirror, none of us is centrefold material, and we feel guilty about it, every minute until the guests go home.

Pretty soon it becomes a habit ÔÇô something to put on, like an apron ÔÇô every time we go into the kitchen, and we look for ways to reinforce this terrible guilt. One of the easiest, and least recognized of guilts is the kitchen work ethic, which simply says that if you haven’t worked yourself stupid, spent hours worrying about the shopping for dinner and even more hours peeling, chopping, rolling, dicing, icing, stuffing, shaping and peering into the oven, then dinner will be worthless.

That our friends and families, or those world-renowned gourmets with palates more delicate than nightingales and taste buds as sensitive as the latest radar detectors, will know and they will tell, and we will permanently be branded as uncaring, incompetent and socially unacceptable cooks.

The basic truth is that most guests are simply grateful. They get a free dinner, no dishes to wash and the chance to go through your bathroom cupboard. They have a mild case of guilt, about things they don’t think they should eat (like garlic) but so long as you don’t tell them, they can live with it.

This simple as simple goes salmon recipe takes no time to prepare and you’ll enjoy a wonderfully guilt-free dinner.

Salmon and Orange Juice

2 Salmon steaks
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp frozen orange juice

Melt the butter in a fry pan. Place the salmon steaks in pan and cook for 1 minute, turn over and add the frozen orange juice. Finish cooking – 8 minutes per inch of thickness.