Whenever Rick and I travel up the coast, we stop in Bandon. Sometimes we leave Crescent City early in the morning and have breakfast in Bandon. Sometimes we just stop there long enough to use the convenient and clean public restrooms downtown.
That was the case about 8 years ago when we were heading north. We pulled off the highway and drove under the Welcome to Bandon arch and parked next to a gift shop called The Brass Rose. The shop is gone now, but when it was open for business you could walk right through it to the public restrooms between the shop and a real estate office.
This particular time Rick wanted to stop and I decided to wait in the car. Rick zipped in and zipped out of the shop, and when he came out he was carrying a small book. “What’s that?” I asked. “I saw it and it looked interesting, so I bought it,” he said.
The most incredible part of this true story is that Rick actually shopped during his 5-minute excursion into this typical coastal gift shop filled with nautical knick-knacks and souvenirs. Rick is not a shopper. He won’t go into a store without a list and never deviates from his list. If we need bananas, for example, he’ll drive to one of the grocery stores in town and come home with bananas, just bananas, nothing else.
It was so out of character for him to rush through a gift shop and buy something spontaneously. “I was walking by and the title just caught my eye,” he explained. The book was called “Tin Fish Gourmet” by Barbara-jo McIntosh.
I forgot about the book until we got home and then I began to look through it. Ms. McIntosh’s premise is that “you can transform the ingredients from your pantry into quick and delicious seafood-based meals.” The chapters are in alphabetical order by fish: anchovies, caviar, clams, crabmeat, etc. The last chapter is tuna. I couldn’t get past page 2 and had to try the Anchovy Butter recipe. I put soft butter, shallots, parsley, pimento and a tin of anchovies in a blender then shaped it into a loaf and froze it. For a quick meal we just had to boil some pasta, chop off a piece of the frozen butter and melt it over the pasta. Yum (if you like anchovies)!
In March 2006 Sunset Magazine paid tribute to Barbara-jo and her “Books to Cooks” bookstore in Vancouver, B.C. that carries some 7500 titles including out-of-print and rare cookbooks. When Rick and I were in Vancouver last October we had every intention of checking it out, but didn’t. I had emailed asking for directions and Barbara-jo wrote back. She was delighted that I knew about Tin Fish Gourmet. I signed up for her monthly newsletter about new books and famous chefs giving demonstrations at her store. Last month’s newsletter announced, “Tin Fish Swims Home!” Although out of print for a while, a few lost boxes were discovered by the publisher and autographed copies were now available. I am still amazed at how I came to own my copy and just emailed Barbara-jo to order a copy for Rick.