Upon receiving 'Graceland's Table', then, I passed it straight on to my Belgian wife who is a kitchen wizard (just one of her talents) and a cookery connoisseur.
'Graceland's Table' does not, as might be expected, present Elvis' favourite recipes, or describe food served regularly at Graceland. Instead it contains recipes collected from fans in recent years, especially for the book. (Just a few of the 185 recipes form the exception: Marian Cocke's Banana Pudding and Janelle McComb's Whipped Cream Pound Cake, for example.) The vast majority of recipes come from fans in the United States. This resulted in a culture clash!
The noises emanating from my wife as she leafed through the book clearly indicated that something was very wrong. It turns out that many of the recipes include ingredients such as 'a can of this' or 'a packet of that.' This is even the case for such basics as soup -- a mortal sin in Belgium, where soup can only be made with fresh ingredients -- and cake. Heck, even I can see the irony a 'cookery book' with recipes that describe soups made out of several cans of other soups and cakes made from packets of cake mix! Then, of course, there's the problem of the health aspects of many of the recipes -- too much cholesterol, or fats, and not enough vitamins, too many calories and not enough fibres, -- don't ask me, I only eat the stuff, but this is the opinion of a European amateur cook, who, I have to admit, knows what she's talking about when it comes to culinary science. Another complaint is that the measurements are given only in 'cups' and 'ounces' with no attempt to offer even a conversion table for the rest of the world.
So, from a health-conscious point of view, the recipes do not get the thumbs up. Well, this never bothered Elvis, of course, so perhaps a lot of Elvis fans prefer to ignore such issues, too (heck, some people even smoke, despite not only killing themselves, but killing others in the process; eating unhealthy foods is a much more individual matter). And looking through the recipes myself, I have to admit that there are one or two that might hit the spot, even if some of the names of the dishes are just a tad ridiculous: would you believe 'Viva La-S'getti' (no, that's not a misprint), or 'Don't Drip on My 'Blue Suede Shoes' Steak in Redeye Gravy' (well, at least I finally know what redeye gravy is!)? Anyway, my prize for best recipe goes to The Wonder of Your [sic] Crepes, submitted, perhaps not surprisingly, by Maria Alonso-Vegas Fernandez, of Madrid, Spain.
The 185 recipes that make up the book are divided into eight sections: Appetizers, party foods and beverages; Breads and breakfast foods; Salads; Vegetables and side dishes; Meats; Poultry and seafood; Soups and stews; Desserts. The section on desserts is by far the largest, and includes such tempting recipes as 'Too Much' Chocolate Cake, Banana Cake, Hunk o' Peanut Butter Pie and 'It's Now or Never' Brownies with Fudge Topping.
Space for an index is included, but in the advance copy of the book that I am reviewing, the index pages are blank. Similarly, although the book's introduction indicates that there is some 'food photography', this is not the case. An email to the publisher, asking if these elements would be included in the released edition has not received a reply.
In addition to the recipes, the book has a sprinkling of 'Do You Know' snippets (very brief Elvis factoids), a drizzle of essays (including ones by Marion Cocke, Janelle McComb, and Joe Esposito, who is incorrectly referred to as 'Elvis' high school friend') and a seasoning of some excellent, though rather small photos.
Please note that this review is based on an advance reader copy.
Author: Ellen Rolfes
Publisher: Rutledge Hill Press
ISBN: 1-4016-0207-X (Paperback, 242 pp.)