CARTHAGE, Mo. —
Today is not just any other Wednesday. Oh, no. Today would have been Elvis Presley's 79th birthday, making him the same age as my mother.
Elvis' everyday life was different from normal people. He slept during the day, was awake all night and was unable to go anywhere in public like a normal person would.
But, when it came to food, he was like a lot of us, craving good, basic, down-home food. According to the book "Are You Hungry Tonight?" Elvis never developed a taste for foreign foods and wouldn't try anything with an unusual ingredient unless the main ingredient was familiar to him. He preferred instead to stick to his tried-and-true favorites.
When it came to hamburgers, Elvis liked them well-done, which was the way he treated all the meat he ate, including burnt bacon that, when combined with mustard, helped form one of his favorite sandwiches. Growing up, there was always plenty of grits, fried chicken, mashed potatoes and country gravy. Elvis was fond of these foods his entire life.
At home in Graceland, Elvis was very specific about what foods should always be available in the kitchen. Lean, fresh ground beef, hamburger buns, pickles, potatoes, six or more cans of ready-to-bake biscuits, onions, fudge cookies, shredded coconut, canned sauerkraut, mustard, peanut butter, fresh fruit, at least three bottles of milk or half-and-half, bacon, chocolate or vanilla ice cream, and orange juice that was freshly squeezed were staples in the pantry and refrigerator. Having been to Graceland and seen the smaller galley kitchen, I'm amazed at the ability to keep all this food on hand plus whatever else was needed to prepare meals.
One of Elvis' favorites -- sliced tomatoes -- was served with just about every meal. He had to have platefuls of big, ripe beefsteak tomato slices. And margarine? Nope. Only butter was used in the Presley kitchen. Banana pudding and brownies were his favorite snacks and were prepared daily at Graceland.
While in Las Vegas, Elvis enjoyed eggs Benedict, which was a little fancier fare than he normally chose. But Vegas was certainly different than Memphis, where he preferred the home cooking of home.
The one sandwich most associated with the King? Peanut butter and banana. With peanut butter and mashed banana spread between two slices of bread, then fried in melted butter, this is actually a great combo. I see it as breakfast.
"Elvis' Greatest Hits, Recipes & More" shares some authentic recipes from Graceland, two of which I'm sharing today. Alvena Roy, Elvis' cook in the 1960s, remembered cooking a midnight supper of bacon-wrapped broiled chicken livers, sweet-and-sour meatballs, deviled eggs, fresh cracked crab, fruit, and a platter of assorted cold cuts and cheeses in August of 1965 when The Beatles came calling. Wouldn't you have loved to sit in a corner and listen to the conversation that night?
The book quotes Alvena Roy as saying that Elvis insisted on a traditional turkey dinner for everyone else for Christmas, but he asked for ham salad, potato salad, meat loaf, hot rolls and monkey bread for himself. With biscuits always at the ready, monkey bread was a great snack that could be made on a whim. Today's recipe shows just how easy it is to make. Meatloaf was an entree Elvis often asked for. The recipe from the book is pretty basic and similar to my mom's take on meatloaf, if you use the tomato soup. Again, Elvis probably liked it well-done, although extra-dry meatloaf probably wouldn't sound appetizing to most of us.
For dessert, the peanut-banana pudding from "Cooking Light" is a dessert version of Elvis' favorite sandwich. It's a great combo, but I doubt skim milk, as is called for in this light version, was used at Graceland. Happy birthday, Elvis, and happy eating!
Quick and easy monkey bread
3 cans buttermilk biscuits
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup packed brown sugar
Cut each biscuit into 4 pieces. Combine the cinnamon and sugar in a plastic bag; shake well. Shake the biscuit pieces from 1 can, a few at a time, in the bag and layer in a well-greased tube pan. Sprinkle raisins and chopped nuts over the biscuits. Repeat layers two more times. Melt the brown sugar and butter; boil for 1 minute. Pour over the top of the biscuits. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until done. Let stand for 15 minutes then invert onto serving plate. Pull apart to eat. Serves 8 to 10.
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup milk
1 cup dry bread crumbs
2 pounds ground beef
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup ketchup or 1 can tomato sauce or 1 can tomato soup
4 strips lean bacon, optional
Combine egg and milk. Add bread crumbs and soak for 10 minutes. Mix in beef, onion, salt and pepper; mix lightly. Place in loaf pan; do not pack. Lay bacon strips over loaf. Spread ketchup on top. Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour. Serves 4 to 6.
2 egg yolks, beaten
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups skim milk
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 medium bananas, thinly sliced
Combine egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch and milk in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture boils. Cook 1 additional minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; add peanut butter and vanilla. Stir well. Cover and chill thoroughly. Layer half of the bananas in 6 individual dessert dishes. Spoon half of the pudding over bananas in each dish, then repeat layers, ending with pudding. Chill thoroughly. Yields 6 servings.
Address correspondence to Cheryle Finley, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.