June 17, 2018 • BOOKS

Amy Mills of “Praise the Lard” On Barbecue, Books, and Her Relationship With Her Dad

While the South might not be able to agree on who makes the best barbecue or what the best kind of sauce is, we can at least all agree on one thing: Barbecue is delicious.

No matter how it’s prepared, barbecue is barbecue; and it’s a food staple.

Amy Mills and her father, Mike Mills, are also fans of barbecue.

Well, that would actually be an understatement…

The father-daughter duo is the force behind 17th Street Barbecue in Illinois, and they literally wrote a cookbook about barbecue: Praise the Lard: Recipes and Revelations from a Legendary Life in Barbecue.”

And in honor of Father’s Day, we caught up with Amy at New York City’s Big Apple Barbecue Festival and got to hear all about her relationship with her dad, barbecue, and their new book.

What’s the first recipe or dish you remember making with your dad?

Besides barbecue, the first dish we cooked together was chili. We ate a lot of chili while growing up, and to me, it’s synonymous with comfort and family.

Food, especially barbecue, is a taste memory by which you judge all other renditions of that food.

How do you think you most take after your dad?

My strong work ethic and determination absolutely came from my dad and extended family. The Mills family are all entrepreneurs, and I’ve spent a lifetime watching each of them build businesses, work through problems and crises, and ultimately thrive.

There is no choice in our family but to be a worker and figure out how to get things done.

What’s the most important piece of culinary advice he’s given you?

Keep it simple. We are home cooks, and our theory is that you don’t have to overcomplicate things to produce really delicious food.

Is there one thing in the kitchen that you guys don’t agree on?

My daddy hates avocado and guacamole, and I love it!

What are you both the most excited for readers to get from your cookbook?

“Praise the Lard” is a love letter to our family, our staff, and to our town. I hope readers will recognize the love and feeling of family in each recipe, and, more importantly, learn about love of family and place while reading all of the essays in the book.

These short pieces detail our parallel journeys in barbecue and stress the family values that are so important to us. I’m particularly proud of the meat chapter in this book—the recipes for smoking meat are very detailed and will help anyone elevate their grill game.

The cocktail chapter is also a favorite. They’re easy to make, and they’ll make every party seem even more special.

Photos by Ken Goodman Photography