The Southern Sympathy Cookbook

I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Elvis Has Left the Building

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I am a born and raised Memphis girl, so I could not let this day pass without a mention.  January 8 is Elvis’s birthday, and this year he would have been 75. And when you grow up in Memphis, Elvis sort of permeates the atmosphere.

Here in Memphis, Elvis is generally commemorated more on the anniversary of his death, on August 16, than on his birthday. I am not sure why this is the case, but every year in August, Elvis fans from around the world converge on Memphis for Elvis Week, the culmination of which is the Candlelight Vigil. Fans of Elvis and fans of Elvis fans stand outside the gates of Graceland on Elvis Presley Boulevard for the Vigil, waiting their turn to file pass the gravesite.  My friends and I marked this for many years, either by attending the Vigil itself, a true sight to behold, or having our own party.  The location of the tribute party rotated around various backyards, and one memorable year it was held on a used car lot. 

I had my 25th birthday party at Graceland, the party in the admission plaza across the street, with tours of the mansion.  In a perfect piece of timing, mine was the first party right before the kitchen was opened to the public, so we had a very early tour.  It is straight out of its day, pure 1970’s, with an early version of a microwave oven. When Elvis lived there, it ran all day and all night, with shifts of cooks.  Elvis was a night owl, but anytime he was awake, he wanted food available – and lots of it.

Elvis was an eater.  True, he may not have had the most adventurous palate, but he liked his food.  He preferred good, classic Southern dishes, like meatloaf, pork chops or country fried steak.  Hamburgers were his favorite food, and he was particularly fond of a Memphis classic, the hamburger with pimento cheese. He was not much of a one for vegetables, and he liked his food delivered to the table already cut up for him.  And he had a TV in the dining room, so he never had to miss his shows.   Graceland now has audio guides, but in the wonderful days of live people leading tours of the house, much time was spent pointing out the unobstructed view of the TV and the Noritake china Priscilla picked out in the blue, gold and smoked mirror lined dining room.

Perhaps the most enduring Elvis food legend is the peanut butter and banana sandwich, a treat created by his mother, always his favorite cook. He could eat these butter-fried gutbusters day or night, any number of them at one sitting.  Today, in the Graceland gift shops, you can buy refrigerator magnets, potholders and recipe cards printed with a fried peanut butter and banana sandwich recipe.  A few years ago, the fine folks at Reese’s created a limited Elvis addition banana and peanut butter cup, a surprisingly good invention.

Elvis clearly pre-dates the cupcake craze, and frankly I don’t imagine he’d think much of these.  Food in miniature was certainly not his style.  He could eat a whole cake by himself, not just a slice or two.  But I think it’s worth celebrating the birthday of the King by, in Elvis’s own words, “taking care of business” with a nostalgic twist.

The King’s Cupcakes

Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

Cupcakes:

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 medium ripe bananas

Frosting:

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

4 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

5 to 6 Tablespoons milk (you may need a bit more)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Add the eggs, sour cream and vanilla and mix to combine thoroughly.

Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl.  With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture.

Using a fork, mash the bananas until smooth, then add to the batter, stirring to combine.

Scoop the batter into muffin cups, filling three-quarters full.  Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool in the pan for 6 minutes, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

For the frosting, cream the peanut butter in an electric mixer until pale and fluffy.  Beat in the sugar and vanilla.  Add enough milk during mixing to create a smooth, spreadable consistency,

When the cupcakes are cool, frost and enjoy!

Makes 18 cupcakes

This cake can also be made as a cake in a 13 x 9 inch pan. With no frosting, this makes an excellent breakfast treat.

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