This is a picture of the dust jacket of Secrets of the Tsil Cafe.

Weston Tito Hingler is born into a loving, complicated world.  His Santa Fe father, Robert Hingler, owns and cooks in the Tsil Café of Kansas City, Missouri, where he serves only foods indigenous to the pre-Columbian Western Hemisphere.  His mother, Maria Tito Hingler, of the Hill-the Italian district of St. Louis-cooks, too.  Her Buen AppeTito provides Kansas City's finest catering.

Wes soon realizes he is not like other kids.  His parents' intensities about food, and customers, and each other, often leave him out.  At the same time, he is stimulated and nourished by exotic food--his father's Napole Cactus Tamal, his mother's Prunes Stuffed with Shrimp and Macadamia Nut--and by family legends, and by the mix of cultures around him.

As Wes separates from home, he discovers the restaurant of his father's first manager, Pablito, where he experiments until he finds a perfect Turkey Mole.  He is befriended by Kansas City's finest food critic, Carson Flinn, who teaches him to appreciate a wider cuisine.  In the garden of Juan Saenz, his Hispanic God-grandfather, he grows corn while his ears arefilled with secrets.  Attending the funeral of his great-grandmother Tito, he discovers a key to his mother's past from his Italian grandfather, Mario Tito.

After many hard-won lessons about family and food, Wes opens a restaurant flavored with Robert Hingler's intensity of taste, Maria Tito Hingler's warmth, Juan Saenz's respect, Pablito's memories of home, Mario Tito's confidence in what the earth provides.  Wes' palate conjures a complicated past.

Reviews--from pre-publication:

Booklist Review:

"Food is the talisman, the metaphor, and the basic aroma of this voluptuous novel, told in the voice of Wes Hingler.  He comes of age in the kitchen of his mother's Old World catering service, filled with the flavors, mostly Italian, of her heritage.  Downstairs, his father, who grew up in New Mexico, runs the Tsil Cafe.  Named for the kachina Tsil, who fills mouths with chile, the cafe brings the intense flavors of New World ingredients to Kansas City.  From his childhood through college, Wes explores his family's relationships to each other, and to food, uncovering the secrets all families keep from each other.  The tale is full of recipes, some on the very edge of bizarre but all bursting with flavor and history.  Definitions of New World foods, from maple syrup to pawpaws, are included, and Averill has managed to integrate both recipes and definitions into his richly unfolding story--no mean feat.  If the narrative bobbles a bit at the end, the feel of the tale in our mouths makes up for it."      --GraceAnne A. DeCandido
Library Journal Review:

popular genre of food-as-metaphor-novels, which includes Laura Esquivel's Like Water for Chocolate and Lily Price's La Cocina (LJ 11/1/00).  We Hingler lives in the shadow of his eccentric, fiercely opinionated cook parents, whose separate kitchens and shared bedroom spontaneously combust into battlegrounds at the flip of a spatula.  Argument and habanero chile are the dominant spices of Wes's life, permeating the ever- tense atmosphere of Kansas City's Tsil Cafe (his father's Southwestern/Native American restaurant) and the kitchen of Buen AppeTito (his mother's eclectic catering business).  Professional rivalries, romantic triangles, and assorted betrayals all make for a volatile upbringing.  When Wes leaves home, he puts family and food behind him, but he's drawn back for his father's unique 50th- birthday party feast.  Dog, guinea pig, maguey worms, and llama blood dominate the idiosyncratic menu, overshadowing the dramatic event itself.  A lovingly written coming-of-age gem, recommended for all libraries."  --Jo Manning, Barry Univ. Miami Shores, FL.
Publishers Weekly:

A man's perspective is rare in the current crush of culinary-inspired fiction, but in this first novel based around hotter-than-hot peppers, it's macho to wield a saucepan.  Narrator Wes Hingler, son of dueling chefs, is a terrific kitchen guide: lusty, culturally hip, erudite but without intellectual pretense, unsentimental.  Wes's father, Robert, is the owner of the Tsil Cafe, serving New Mexican food in Kansas City, Mo.; his mother, Maria Tito Hingler, runs Buen AppeTito catering. Growing up in their two kitchens, Wes embodies their conflicts and collusions: New World versus Old World ingredients, heat and warmth. He must become himself as well as their child, and the book recounts his tortuous, triumphant journey to his own restaurant, Weston's One-World Cafe. Tsil (pronounced like the first syllable in chili, but with a hiss) is the Hopi name for a chili pepper come to life, and nearly all the recipes gathered in the book include a chili or two in the ingredient list. Those who prefer their meals bland are forewarned, as should be vegetarians and pet owners: at the culminating feast, soup with llama blood is served. Sometimes Wes's extended family seems a dish with a  confusing number of spices. But O. Henry Award-winning short story writer Averill uses the issue of roots to make a fine point about the influence of many cooks on even a signature dish.  Readable if not readily cookable, Tsil Cafe will heat up the summer.  Agent, Stephanie von Hirschberg. National publicity.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Reviews--an assortment:

 " . . . delicious, fully drawn" -St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"Hot stuff: it is completely satisfying food fiction. The recipes are intriguing and delicious-looking, the revelations are many and scandalous, and the story itself leaves you feeling sated but not stuffed. . . .Welcome to Thomas Fox Averill's New World." -Calgary Herald

"A tour de force of the palate." -Wichita Eagle

" . . .a coming-of-age story that delves-with rich, succulentdetail-into the lore of New World and Old World cooking. . . Recipes look . . . mouthwatering." -New Age Magazine

"  . . . [a] voluptuous novel . . . .The tale is full of recipes,some on the very edge of bizarre but all bursting with flavor and history. Definitions of New World foods, from maple syrup to pawpaws, are included, and Averill has managed to integrate both recipes and definitions into his richly unfolding story-no mean feat." -Booklist

" . . . a spicy coming-of-age story combined with mouth-watering recipes for New World cuisine." -Topeka Capital-Journal

" tantalizing recipes  A lovingly written coming-of-agegem." -Library Journal

"Averill . . . blends savory, but spicy recipes into this novel of ahot-blooded family with two battling kitchens." -Bookpage

". . . a flavorful concoction of a story." -Lawrence Journal-World (KS)

" . . . an interesting culinary adventure . . . ." -The Austin Chronicle

" . . .more than just another food as metaphor novel . . . literate and well-written. . . ." -The Joplin Globe (MO)
Prairie Lights Reading, from July 2001

In the summer of 2001, I read from Secrets of the Tsil Cafe, and answered questions at Prairie Lights Book Store as part of WSUI's Live from Prairie Lights series.  To listen to that archived program, to to:
 Live From Prairie Lights, Tsil Cafe

Reader's Guides for Book Discussion

Secrets of the Tsil Cafe was the Read Across Lawrence (Kansas) selection for the Spring of 2003.  For anyone discussing the book, see questions developed for Read Across Lawrence and those from the publisher, BlueHen/Putnam:
 Reader's Guides
Since the publication of Secrets of the Tsil Cafe I have given interviews to newspapers, students and others interested in the novel in particular and my writing in general.  My brother Tim Averill compiled a file of those interviews for his teaching, and anyone who is interested should follow the link below.

 E-mail interviews with Tom Averill

 Transcript of KANU Radio Interview with Tom Averill
Chapter-a-Day: promotes books and reading by introducing subscribers to a daily five-minute portion of a book.  The site has over 100,000 participants who sign up for the daily dose, and who, once "hooked" on a new book, check out the book from a library, or buy it at a bookstore.  To visit their website, and to subscribe, just click on this link: This is the logo of From Chapter-a-Day on Secrets of the Tsil Cafe:

"The Tsil Cafe is one of my top ten of all books I have ever read-- as a chef, this book changed my style of cooking--making me do more research and working to authenticate recipes."   --Chef Karen

"Anybody else getting fat this week?  What a totally edible book!"   ---SK

"I'm hooked . . . enjoying reading about the cultural differences through a boy's eyes, all wrapped up in a well written plot."   --Trisha

Sample recipe from Tsil:


One cup black beans, dry
Three chili anchos, (dried)
One can (16 oz.) gooseberries (or two cups fresh)
One dozen corn tortillas (preferably blue)
Corn oil
Four large red tomatoes
One tablespoon medium-hot chili powder
Three ripe avocados
Two medium yellow tomatoes
Three big fresh jalapeno peppers
Two tablespoons sage vinegar (crumble sage, preferably from American sagebrush,
                                                    in vinegar and let sit overnight or longer)

Cook black beans in water with the dried chili anchos until they are tender.  Add drained, slightly-rinsed gooseberries in equal amount of black beans.  Make enchilada sauce by buzzing the four large red tomatoes in a blender.  Put them in a sauce pan with the chili powder and two of the jalapenos, cut into fine pieces.  Cook for at least an hour, until sauce thickens. Quickly heat corn tortillas in hot corn oil, but do not cook to crispness.  Dip tortillas in enchilada sauce, lie flat, and spoon on two tablespoons of the black bean and gooseberry mixture.  Roll up to make a tube.  Set on plate.  When all twelve tortillas are on plate, cut in half and push out to the edges of the plate to form a circle. Make a guacamole from the avocados, yellow tomatoes, sage vinegar and remaining jalapeno pepper, everything chopped fine and mixed together.  Put guacamole in small bowl and place in the space you created in the middle of the plate.  Spoon guacamole onto enchiladas.

New recipes of New World food (from my Thanksgiving article in Chile Pepper magazine):

Here's a new way to have Turkey and mashed potatoes.


One teaspoon vanilla
Fourth cup sage vinegar (add four leaves of prairie sage to white vinegar and let soak for several days)
One teaspoon mild chile powder
One teaspoon ground achiote seed
Fourth cup peanut oil
Turkey breasts and thighs

Make a marinade of first five ingredients.  Rub onto turkey breasts and thighs, on and under skin, several hours before roasting in a 325 degree oven.  Put marinade in bottom of pan, and cook for one and a half hours covered, a half-hour uncovered, to brown up skin.  Baste with marinade and turkey juices several times during cooking.  Carve turkey and serve with juices as gravy.


Six medium sweet potatoes
One can gooseberries, (14 oz.)
One fourth to one-half teaspoon of chipotle pepper powder

Skin potatoes and boil until done.  Drain water.  Put in bowl and add gooseberries and chipotle powder.  Mash until light and creamy in texture.  Serve immediately.

Please direct any comments to:

Thomas Fox Averill
Washburn University
1700 College
Topeka, KS 66621

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