Mar 22, 2014

The King's Last Meal

"Elvis, Aloha From Hawaii" 1973 Television Broadcast.
Viewing figures have been estimated at 
over 1 billion viewers worldwide... 41 years ago!
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Hawaii remembers Elvis Presley because of his onstage charisma and his astonishing stage presence, along with his haunting singing voice. Hawaii became his favorite vacation destination from his first visit in the late 1950's until his final vacation in March of 1977. 

Not only did he make three movies in Hawaii (Blue Hawaii, Girls Girls Girls and Paradise, Hawaiian Style), he also came here for live performances, the one most well known being the show on January 14, 1973 telecasted world-wide as "Elvis, Aloha from Hawaii". Like most visitors to Hawaii, Elvis fell in love with the beauty of the islands and the hospitality of its people.

Elvis was the most photographed entertainer who ever lived. Hence, his weight gain became public knowledge. Elvis loved to eat, but he loved food that was not particularly good for him, rich, heavy, caloric down-home foods. Unfortunately the wealthier Elvis became, the more he ate, and the fatter he got. He could afford filet mignon but preferred well-done burgers. Instead of champagne, he drank Pepsi. For dessert, he favored Deep South diner classics. He hired a 24-hour a day cook-staff to work in his home, Graceland, in Memphis, Tennessee. He kept one of the screens in his closed-circuit TV room permanently fixed to the kitchen. 
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There are many Elvis cookbooks out there that tell us the inside eating habits of the King, but only one was written with the full cooperation of Elvis Presley Enterprises called "Graceland's Table". 

Another 1992 cookbook "Fit For A King: The Elvis Presley Cookbook", by author Elizabeth McKeon notes that Elvis asked his chef, Alvena Roy, to have these items on-hand in Graceland’s kitchen pantry at all times:

- Fresh, lean, unfrozen ground meat
- One case regular Pepsi
- One case orange drinks
- Rolls (hot rolls–Brown 'n' Serve)
- Cans of biscuits (at least six)
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- Hamburger buns
- Pickles
- Potatoes and onions
- Assorted fresh fruit
- Cans of sauerkraut
- Wieners
- At least three bottles of milk, including half & half
- Thin, lean bacon
- Mustard
- Peanut butter
- Banana pudding (to be made each night)
- Ingredients for meat loaf and sauce
- Brownies
- Ice cream (vanilla and chocolate)
- Shredded coconut
- Fudge cookies
- Gum (Spearmint, Doublemint, Juicy Fruit — three of each)

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To the shock of his fans, Elvis Presley died on August 16, 1977 at the age of 42 of a massive heart attack. His medical records showed that he had a history of diabetes, depression, insomnia, overweight and high blood pressure. Many attributed his death to a dependence on a lethal combination of powerful prescription drugs. 

At the time of his death he was strapped for cash. He had less than a million dollars to his name due to his bad habits and bad business deals. At the end he was a very lonely man. Elvis was in his grand room at the Hilton hotel in Vegas with a room full of guests, sat down near a desk, opened the drawer, took out a small pad of paper with 'Hilton' on the letterhead and wrote, "I'm the only person I know who can walk into a room full of people and be alone." That note is on display at Graceland.

A personal note: Although Elvis and I never met, we both went to high school in Memphis, Tennessee. Elvis was 9 years older than I was and was nearing the height of his career. I remember when he would occasionally rent the Loews State Theater, or the Memphis Fair Grounds just to entertain his friends. I was always fascinated by him and his lavish spending.

Elvis' last meal was reportedly four scoops of ice cream 
and six chocolate chip cookies.

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Some of Elvis' favorite recipes:

Elvis' Favorite Sandwich
Elvis’ favorite food was said to be this simple pan-fried sandwich made of white bread slices, mashed bananas, bacon, honey, and a huge amount of peanut butter, which he’d allegedly eat two per day (each one contains about 92% of the recommended daily fat intake for an average adult). 

Ingredients:
2 large, ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
1 1/4 cups smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup honey
8 slices white bread
12 slices bacon, sautéed until crispy
1/3 cup butter, melted

Procedure:
Peel and mash the bananas in a medium bowl. Combine the peanut butter with the bananas and honey and mix well. Spread the mixture on four of the bread slices then place 3 bacon slices on top of the banana mixture: top with the remaining four bread slices. Put the butter in a large skillet and slowly brown the sandwiches on both sides until golden brown. Slice in half and serve immediately. Makes 4 sandwiches.

Elvis' Sweet and Sour Meatballs
The cookbook "Fit for a King" includes menus from notable meals in Elvis history: Christmas at Graceland, Elvis and Priscilla’s wedding dinner, and the Beatles’ U.S. tour in August 1965, when the famous Beatles shared a midnight supper of cracked crab, deviled eggs, broiled chicken livers wrapped in bacon, and the sweet and sour meatballs (recipe shown below). This is a rather basic recipe except for the “sweet and sour sauce” with brown sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, and Elvis’ beloved pineapple juice.

Ingredients for the meatballs:
1/3 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup light cream
3 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
3/4 pound ground beef
1/4 pound ground pork
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Ingredients for the sweet and sour sauce:
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 cup pineapple juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce

Procedure:
In a large mixing bowl combine the bread crumbs, water, and cream. Set the mixture aside.

In a heavy skillet melt 1 tablespoon of butter and sauté the onion until transparent. Transfer the onion to a separate mixing bowl and add the ground beef and ground pork. Add the salt, sugar, pepper, and bread crumb mixture, blending well. Shape the meat into balls about 3/4 inch in diameter.

In the same skillet melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Brown the meatballs, turning frequently to brown evenly. Reduce the heat and cover. Continue to cook for about 10 minutes, turning frequently.

In a saucepan blend together the remaining ingredients. Cook over medium heat until thick, stirring constantly. Pour the sauce over the cooked meatballs. Makes 4 dozen.

Elvis' Graceland Meat loaf
This classic homestyle dish was one of Elvis' favorites and a staple of Graceland's kitchen.

Ingredients:
2 pounds ground chuck
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium green bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced
3 large eggs
1 16-ounce can diced tomatoes and green chilies, drained
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
dash of Worcestershire sauce

Procedure:
Preheat the oven to 375˚F.

In a large bowl combine the ground chuck, onion, bell pepper, eggs and tomatoes and green chilies. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix well, making sure all ingredients are blended. Place the meat mixture in an 8-by-8-inch baking pan, leaving 1/2 inch around the sides. Bake for about 1 hour and 25 minutes or until done.

While the meat is cooking, combine the ketchup, brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce in a small bowl. Pour off any fat from the meat loaf and spread the brown sugar glaze over the top of the meat loaf for the final 10 minutes of cooking time. Makes 6 servings.

Simple Southern Fried Chicken
Traditionally, Southern Fried Chicken was fried in an iron skillet or Dutch oven, using lard or solid vegetable shortening, however canola oil or peanut oil works just fine.

Ingredients:
1 (3- to 4-pound) whole chicken, cut into pieces, or bone in chicken thighs.
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 cups buttermilk
self-rising flour
Canola oil

Procedure:
Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Place chicken in a shallow dish or zip-top plastic bag, and add buttermilk. Cover or seal, and chill at least 2 hours.

Remove chicken from buttermilk, discarding buttermilk. Dredge chicken in flour.

Pour oil to a depth of 1 1/2 inches in a deep skillet or Dutch oven; heat to 360°F. Add chicken, a few pieces at a time; cover and cook 6 minutes. Uncover chicken, and cook 9 minutes. Turn chicken; cover and cook 6 minutes. Uncover and cook 5 to 9 minutes, turning chicken the last 3 minutes for even browning, if necessary. Drain on paper towels. Serve with Hushpuppies (recipe below), and collard greens with a sprinkle of Hawaiian chili pepper water. Makes 4 servings.

Hushpuppies
Hushpuppies
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Elvis Presley lived in the small farm community of East Tupelo, Mississippi as a child, where he learned to love traditional southern cooking. He no doubt loved hushpuppies, as most southern boys do. 

An African cook in Atlanta is said to have given the name hushpuppy to this food. When frying a batch of catfish and croquettes, a nearby puppy began to howl. To keep the puppy quiet, she gave it a plateful of the croquettes and said, "hush, puppy." Since the name was cut, it stuck. This is one of my favorite southern recipes.

Ingredients:
2 cups white cornmeal
1 teaspoons baking powder
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 cup milk, more if needed
1/4 cup solid vegetable shortening, melted
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of garlic powder
pinch of cayenne pepper
2 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 cup cooked fresh corn off the cob (optional, but recommended)
canola oil for frying

Procedure:
In a mixing bowl combine all of the ingredients except the frying oil. Moisten with just enough milk to create a stiff dough. Drop the batter from a tablespoon into deep hot oil (350˚F) and fry for 3 or 4 minutes, or until golden (turn them in the hot oil several times). Don't crowd them in the oil. Drain on paper towels. Immediately sprinkle with salt. Serve hushpuppies warm with fried fish, Island Pork Ribs, or fried chicken, and Asian Coleslaw. Makes 2 dozen.

Janelle's Pound Cake
Janelle McComb met Elvis when he was a baby in Tupelo, Mississippi, and became a family friend. Elvis loved his childhood friend's pound cake. She would bring two loaves of her pound cake to Elvis every year at Christmas time when he lived at Graceland. Elvis would eat one all by himself, and share the other. Janelle died at 82 in 2005. She had a personal connection some fans of Elvis may have envied.

Ingredients:
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pans
3 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring) plus more for pans
3/4 teaspoons salt
3 cups sugar
7 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup whipping cream

Special equipment: a 10-inch tube pan (4 1/2 inches deep; not with a removable bottom) or a 10-inch bundt pan (3 1/4 inches deep; 3-qt capacity)

Procedure:
Put oven rack in middle position, but do not preheat oven. Generously butter pan and dust with flour, knocking out excess flour. Sift together sifted flour (3 cups) and salt into a bowl. Repeat sifting into another bowl (flour will have been sifted 3 times in total). Beat together butter (2 sticks) and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy – about 5 minutes in a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, or 6 to 8 minutes with a handheld mixer. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low and add half of flour, then all of cream, then remaining flour, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down side of bowl, then beat at medium-high speed 5 minutes. Batter will become creamier and satiny.

Spoon batter into pan and rap pan against work surface once or twice to eliminate air bubbles. Place pan in (cold) oven and turn oven temperature to 350°F. Bake until golden and a wooden pick or skewer inserted in middle of cake comes out with a few crumbs adhering – 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Cool cake in pan on a rack 30 minutes. Run a thin knife around inner and outer edges of cake, then invert rack over pan and invert cake onto rack to cool completely. Makes 10-12 servings.

Cooks’ note: Cake keeps, covered well with plastic wrap or in an airtight container, at room temperature 5 days.
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