“The Thrill of The Grill” by Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby had a formative influence on me as a young adult, and it continues to inform how I cook today.
This book introduced me to a lively, fresh approach to cooking—say, a fresh salsa over fish—with big flavors brought by the ingredients themselves.
I used this book much less for grilling and much more for its techniques, sides, and desserts. Various salsas, the liberal use of fresh herbs, fresh fish, the cold orzo salad, chocolate pudding cake, and chocolate pecan pie made their way into the repertoire at our house.
I was also won over by the generosity of the recipes: At the time, Chris Scheslinger was chef-owner of the late, great East Coast Grill in Cambridge, Massachusetts. You could experience the flavors of the restaurant at home by following the recipes.
This book set a high bar, and it’s what I want to this day from any cookbook I buy. The recipes need to work, they can’t have a lot of (pricey) ingredients or fussy techniques, and I want to learn something beyond the recipes themselves. Nor do I want to pile up a mountain of dishes to do the prep.
These qualities are still what I appreciate about a great physical cookbook, which go beyond individual recipes that I can browse online.