"He'd have butter running down his arms"
On the night of August 16, 1977, a 42-year-old Elvis Presley was found unresponsive at his Graceland mansion and taken to Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. He was pronounced dead, officially from a heart attack, but it doesn’t take a medical degree to figure out there were other factors involved with his untimely demise—pills, namely, and a life of deep-fried excess. Thirty-nine years after Elvis’ passing, old and new fans alike make the August pilgrimage to Graceland in the humid southern heat to see the King’s palace and check out the gallery of rhinestone-covered jumpsuits. During the audio-guided tour of the house, there’s a point where visitors pass his ‘70s-style kitchen, all wood paneling and speckled Formica countertop, and pause to think about his cooking habits. Fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches are the dish that Big E made famous and if we were led to believe everything tabloids and bloggers have reiterated over the years, is solely what the singer lived on. But what did Elvis eat for breakfast?
Nancy Rooks was a maid and cook at Graceland for the Presley family, and has published at least two books on the recipes that they liked best. According to Rooks, Elvis would eat breakfast around 5:00 p.m. She would take diced honeydew, cantaloupe, and watermelon up to his bedroom during the day, since he took a lot of meals in bed.
Mary Jenkins Langston, another longtime cook for Elvis, served up indulgent meals for up to 14 years and even stayed on 12 years after Elvis died to cook for the family. In a 2000 obituary in the New York Times, Jenkins gave a less healthful picture of the King’s morning meal: "For breakfast, he'd have homemade biscuits fried in butter, sausage patties, four scrambled eggs and sometimes fried bacon. I'd bring the tray up to his room, he'd say, 'This is good, Mary.' He'd have butter running down his arms."
This can be somewhat corroborated by James Gregory’s 1960 biography of Presley, aptly titled The Elvis Presley Story. Appealing to the dreams of young girls (and boys) everywhere, in a chapter titled “An Elvis Presley Date Diary,” the book details the important information a future love interest of the King will need to know, such as his favorite color (blue), why his romances end (the answer is simply, “Elvis, it must be remembered, is more than a man, he is a commodity.”), and of course, what to cook him for breakfast:
This was, of course, written before Priscilla entered the picture, with her foot-high stacked hair and diamonds. But signs seem to point that Elvis loved a big breakfast: bacon and biscuits, and lots of them, buffered the pressures of performing, recording, and making several movies a year.
In the end, Elvis was a down-to-Earth guy. He had a modest mansion in Memphis, two personal planes, three cooks, and a whole entourage of friends that didn’t ever seem to go home. He would rent out Memphis’ now defunct local amusement park, Libertyland, and have it closed to the public just so he and his friends could ride the rollercoaster all night (a week before his death, it’s said he rode the Zippin Pippin endlessly from 1 a.m to 4 a.m.), and he ate biscuits, eggs, sausage, bacon and fruit just like many people do every day. Except he made his portions King-sized.