Book Review: The Recipes Behind the Restaurants

Some favorite cookbooks from some favorite local eateries

The Recipes Behind the Restaurants

Threadgill's: The Cookbook

by Eddie Wilson
Longstreet Press, 244 pp., $24.95

Threadgill's: The Cookbook is as much a memoir of Southern living and eating in the Fifties and Sixties, a history of Eddie Wilson and Threadgill's Home Cooking and the growth of the Austin music scene, and a gracious memorial to Kenneth Threadgill as it is a cookbook of the copious dishes served at this Austin restaurant institution.

The book opens with a detailed timeline starting in 1933, the year that Wilson's then-11-year-old mom, Beulah, was handed the chore of cooking three meals a day for a family of nine, and the year that 22-year-old Kenneth Threadgill bought a Gulf gas station way out in the boonies north of Austin. Wilson does a seamless job of leading us through the interwoven tales of his Southern Mississippi family, Threadgill and his bar, the music scene and the Armadillo, and the birth and growth of Threadgill's restaurant.

When Wilson discusses why he uses canned vegetables for some items, you realize that his family put away 500 jars of vegetables each summer to get them through the winter. You learn why dinner and supper are so different and what they used to mean in the South: Dinner (lunch) was the big meal; supper, a pre-sleep snack. Wilson speaks eloquently about the foundation of his menu: the Southern restaurant format of meat and three and the importance of vegetables on that blue plate.

The 100 or so recipes are arranged in menu order, starting first with the Pantry (stocks, seasonings, sauces, dressings), and each section is preceded by an entertaining discourse on the relevant background. The recipes are all logical and easy to understand, and with few exceptions, relatively easy cooking. If there were a downside, it's that most recipes make eight to 10 servings; we assume they scale down with no problems.

Between the covers you'll find the words to Guy Clark's "Homegrown Tomatoes," humorous lyrics by Roy Blount Jr., and an amazing graphic historical novel by Jack Jackson. Most importantly, you'll find the food of a family and an institution, revealed in the context of a fascinating history.

Sign up for the Chronicle Cooking newsletter

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

If you want to submit a recipe, send it to

  • The Recipes Behind the Restaurants

    Make your restaurant favorites in your favorite footed jammies, for all we care
  • Maria's Taco Xpress

    Have a handmade and heartfelt memento from Taco Xpress


    Fall in love with Cole's cooking all over again

    Sweetish Hill

    These recipes will sweeten your life

    Eastside Cafe

    Eastside Cafe has become a byword for quality dining, and its cookbook collection makes it possible to recreate the experience at home
  • Hudson's on the Bend

    As a cookbook, it is factual and substantive. As a memento of Hudson's on the Bend, it is superb.

    Fonda San Miguel

    This book is a must for every longtime Austin resident and for all fans of true Mexican cuisine

    Lake Austin Spa Resort

    Learn to adapt fatty recipes into less-lethal versions

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Food Reviews
I Am a Filipino and This Is How We Cook
I Am a Filipino and This Is How We Cook

Kahron Spearman, Oct. 26, 2018

Buttermilk Graffiti
Buttermilk Graffiti

Jessi Devenyns, Oct. 26, 2018

More by Mick Vann
Guantanamera Cuban Cuisine
Guantanamera Cuban Cuisine
Good things come in small packages

May 8, 2015

On the Cheap: Taquito Aviles
Taquito Aviles
Getting our goat on Braker

Feb. 20, 2015


Threadgill's Home Cooking, Kenneth Threadgill, Eddie Wilson, blue plates, Jack Jackson, Guy Clark

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle