Something was missing in 2016 when an Austin, Texas chef recreated the gate-fold meal from ZZ Top’s epochal 1973 album, Tres Hombres.
I’ll get to this omission in a moment. Meanwhile, queue up the album on the device of your choice.
Back in 1973, it was a big decision for me to purchase Tres Hombres. I was a 7th grader without liquidity, either beer or cash, and the money probably came from putting up hay, mowing grass – or shameless begging. Rock and roll wasn’t popular in my house, but the little ol’ band from Texas was seismic in my social circle.
The album’s gate-fold photograph of heaping Tex-Mex platters and regional bric-a-brac is justifiably renowned, and from the vantage point of today, it is genuinely impossible to overstate how exotic this food appeared to us 47 years ago. The spread made you salivate just looking at it, and there was nothing available locally to compare. Hard shell tacos might have been served in the school cafeteria by then, but that’s as far as it went in Southern Indiana.
In January of 2016, Austin chef Tom Micklethwait recreated the Tres Hombres gate-fold spread. It went viral, and justifiably so. Micklethwait cooked, filmed and ate the same meal, but there was a difference that seems to have escaped the notice of many.
In the 2016 video recreation, Micklethwait’s bottle of beer has no label. It isn’t Southern Select, because Southern Select no longer exists. But as aspiring under-aged beer guzzlers in 1973, you can bet we noticed the brand. Some day, we vowed, we’d go to Texas and find some. It never happened; so much for the bucket lists of adolescence.
For a bit about the history of Southern Select and the involvement of Howard Hughes in Texas brewing lore (yes, THAT Howard Hughes), the Bottlecaps blog has the story: “THE BEER SERIES: Part Three | Good times on the Gulf.”
The finest account I’ve seen of of Micklethwait’s feat of culinary recreation is at Texas Monthly, because ZZ Top’s guitarist tells the story of the original photo shoot.
An Austin Chef Recreated ZZ Top’s “Tres Hombres” Album … And Billy Gibbons loves it, by Andy Langer (Texas Monthly)
The shot from the gatefold is the final frame Galen was able to snap. At some point, we took a fifteen-minute break. And when we returned we found his German Shepherd laying on his side gasping for breath. He’d jumped up on the table and consumed the entire lot. He got it all.
The video is there, and also at Rolling Stone.