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Are You Hungry Tonight? was compiled by Brenda Butler and published in 1992. An Elvis Presley cookbook with over fifty of his favourite recipes. The sort of things he would always liked to be cooked for him when he was sad or just comfort eating and piling on the pounds (which seemed to be most of the time in his last years). He famously had a closed-circuit television system trained on his kitchen (where he had his own personal staff of course) and it is said that at the height of his gluttony Elvis was taking in more daily calories than an Asian elephant. That can't be true surely. He weighed 255 pounds when he died - a weight that made him heavier than most heavyweight boxers. The last thing he ate before his death was a huge dollop of ice cream and six chocolate biscuits. He loved (and strangely it doesn't seem to feature here although for health reasons perhaps it's just as well) the "Fool's Gold Loaf" - an extravagant and expensive sandwich made in Denver and consisting of a whole loaf of French stick style Italian bread containing a jar of peanut butter, a jar of grape jelly (that's jam to me and you) and a pound of bacon. Elvis once flew to Denver in his private jet just to order 22 of these sandwiches! He was poor when growing up (squirrel was often on the menu) so took the opportunity to be able to eat anything he wanted later in his life. At some point this clearly got out of control. Much of the food he ate was very unhealthy with lots of high fat, high calorie meals such as cheeseburgers, sugar laden puddings and his legendary favourite - the fried peanut butter and banana sandwich. You probably wouldn't want to eat too much of this stuff yourself but it's a fun trawl through his favourites and the book is liberally sprinkled with photographs of the burger munching King.
The book is split into four different sections - "Breakfast Was Served All Day (Except in the Morning)", "Soups, Sandwiches and the Sandwich", "Meat and Potatoes", "Vegetables - Yes the King Ate Vegetables", and "Puddings, Pies, Cakes and the Wedding Cake". It's nearly all the type of food he'd grown up with as a youngster living in dancing outlaw country but could now obviously indulge himself with on a much more frequent basis. What they would term southern soul food or something. Grits, ribs, lashings of butter, cheese, biscuits and gravy, black-eyed peas, muffins, greens, yams, rich puddings made with blueberries and bananas, cornbread, fried chicken, huge amounts of red meat (being southern we learn that Elvis had a preference for ham and pork rather than beef). He was quite conservative with his food and never deviated much from the staples that surrounded him as a youngster. He loved mashed potatoes, corn, gravy. Legend has it that Elvis once ate nothing but meatloaf and mashed potatoes for two years. When he decided he liked something he stuck with it rather than venture out to anything new. The book is structured in a very clear way with each of the dishes receiving a page with a photograph of what it should look like and then the ingredients you'll need and fairly simple instructions on how to make it. Some of the dishes here sound rather complicated and require numerous pots and pans but there are many easy things to make too like Blueberry Muffins and Brownies which even I can cook.
I don't eat meat and have no interest in grease and butter festooned sandwiches so the book was mostly more of an enjoyable social document to me, a sketch of what Elvis liked to gorge himself on (and a bit like watching one of those downmarket diner trawls on the Food Channel). Right at the end you even get the recipe for the elaborate wedding cake that Elvis and Priscilla had made for themselves. This cake has six levels and serves hundreds of people so you'll need a big kitchen. The opening chapter is themed around breakfast - although as the title of the chapter makes clear Elvis never actually ate breakfast when you are supposed to, being a night owl and often working late I suppose. Muffins, eggs benedict, biscuits and red-eye gravy, doughnuts, potato & corned beef hash. This was the sort of stuff he loved. There is a variation on grits too and I found these interesting as I always wondered what grits were after watching Joe Pesci look distinctly unimpressed after being served them in the film My Cousin Vinny. Grits are similar to polenta and a popular breakfast staple in the south of the United States. Elvis was very fond of sweet grits apparently. The section on soups and sandwiches has several recipes including perhaps the most famous Elvis food item of all - the fried peanut butter and banana sandwich. This was one of his absolute favourites and something he'd always ask his personal cook to make when he was blue or lonely and wanted something comforting to eat. It isn't deep fried (as is sometimes assumed) but is still something you'd probably be better off avoiding.
You basically make a peanut butter and banana sandwich and then shallow fry each side in a pan of butter until the bread has gone golden brown. Very simple to make and apparently something that was quite common as a snack treat where Elvis was from. Not tempted myself. Elvis seemed to love things with banana and his cook's Banana Pudding was also an absolute favourite that he would ask for often. This pudding is made with three bananas, eggs, sugar, milk, vanilla, cornstarch, butter and thirty vanilla wafers. The wafers line the bottom of the dish and the whole thing only has to be cooked for ten minutes. Meat and potatoes is the biggest chapter and gives you recipes like Pot Roast, Fried Chicken, Macaroni and Cheese, Almond Pork, Scrapple and so on. If you want to have a cheeseburger just the way Elvis liked them you'll need ground beef, cheese, garlic salt, oregano, black pepper and a chopped onion. Elvis disliked seafood and banned it from being cooked at Graceland so that doesn't feature in the book. He loved his bacon to be practically burned so burned bacon features in several dishes. What else did he love? He loved beefsteak tomatoes and ate them a lot (although sadly whatever benefit this did was rather negated by all the rubbish he put down his cakehole with them). Want to have mashed potatoes exactly the way that Elvis liked them? The recipe is here and you'll need a lot of cream cheese, butter and milk. Despite the penchant of Elvis for horrible barbecued ribs and assorted fat rich meat themed dinners there are actually a number of dishes here you can try if you are a vegetarian.
His favourite Potato Cheese Soup is easy to do and you just have to substitute vegetable stock for chicken stock. The section on puddings offers a number of tempting sounding pies (Lemon Meringue, Apple, Pecan, Cherry, Banana Coconut, Wild Blueberry etc) and there is also a recipe for a Nectarine Cobbler. This is an enjoyable trawl through the grub of Elvis and while there is a lot of stuff here you wouldn't touch with a barge pole (the morbid curiosity of what Elvis ate is reward enough for the most part) there are a number of easy quick recipes if you do feel like pretending you live at Graceland in the 1970s just for an hour or so. At the time of writing you can buy this new for about £12 and used for next to nothing.