A bittersweet and often funny coming-of-age story set in a cross- cultural and extended family that lives between two kitchens-one traditional, the other New World.
Weston Hingler's crib was in the kitchen of BuenAppeTito, his mother's catering service. There, he learned to read while tasting all the flavors of his mother's culinary alphabet.
But before he was allowed to enter the Tsil Cafˇ, he had to pass his father's taste tests. Anchovies. Haba–ero chiles. Chipotle peppers. Food to purge body and soul. Food his loving but sometimes volatile father uses as a measure of family, friends, and enemies.
Caught between these two kitchens, Weston quickly learns that he's also trapped by his wayward parents' secrets and histories, infidelities and gaping needs, as well as by the cafˇ customers and employees who are privy to his growing up.
Weston chooses his escapes intuitively, but he can't get away. In this layered and savory novel, food is the reflection of life's shifting flavors, and readers will be drawn to the delicious package in which Averill delivers his story-complete with recipes. But ultimately they'll attach to Weston's complicated family, and when Averill serves us their feasts of reconciliation, readers will want to raise a toast.
In the middle of writing Secrets of the Tsil Cafe, I celebrated my 50th birthday. Knowing that my restaurateur, Robert Hingler, would make his 50th an extravagant experiment in culinary pleasure and odd appetite, my agent suggested I do something similar for myself. I did. My self-indulgence was to pretend Hingler's Tsil Cafe was catering my birthday dinner. I invited nearly twenty friends and family members to a dinner selected from that menu. My wife thought it odd that I wanted to spend my birthday cooking a five-course dinner for twenty, but I called it a "gift" to both myself and my work-in-progress novel.
Our invitation included the dinner menu: Black Bean & Gooseberry Enchiladas and Chips with Sweet Habanero Salsa for appetizers; then Potato and Green Chile Soup; then the salad course, Watercress with Roasted Sunflower Dressing; and finally the main dish--Buffalo Tongue with Chipotle Barbecue Sauce--and sides, Quinoa and Squash. My wife catered the dessert, a non-Tsil Lemon Meringue Pie. I organized, shopped, cooked happily for an entire day, and we all ate well.
By putting myself in Hingler's shoes for a day, I learned something of exotic appetites. I received both compliments and occasional silence depending on the tastes of my guests. Most of all I had the best gift this novelist could receive: a deeper well for writing Secrets of the Tsil Cafe.
From the Author