Author David Adler
Publisher Three Rivers Press
The Life and Cuisine of Elvis Presley is a book about the food that made The King. It doesn’t try to hound (dog) you into trying all of the recipes (wise men say only fools rush in, but we can’t help falling for much of the cuisine on offer) but this is, nevertheless, a compelling read that links the life of Elvis Presley with the food that he consumed.
The book starts earlier than you might expect, opening by discussing the dishes that his mother Gladys would have eaten, connecting her diet with the availability of food and Tupelo society at the time, providing a useful context for the rest of the book. It then goes on to discuss the school dinners the young Elvis ate and the 1950’s diner years – indeed it covers all aspects of food from throughout his life, from his years in the army, eating with the other soldiers in the mess, and the celluloid culinary choices of a Hollywood star to lunching in Las Vegas.
But the book doesn’t just deal with the social context it also covers the fluctuation between the habits and culinary needs of Elvis himself, from snacking to dieting (the helpfully titled “Love Me Slender” chapter). And here lies much of the interest beyond the man himself, because you get an in-depth look at southern state food and culture, notably in the “Bible Belt Brunch” page that has two dishes, the 7-Up Salad, which seems light on the salad (the nearest vegetable-related ingredient is a crushed pineapple) but high on 7-Up and gelatine, with added green colouring should you like, and the “magnificent Southern delicacy” Chess Pie. This super sweet pie dessert sounds like an incredibly sugary treat, although you’d probably only be able to manage ‘Just A Little Bit’. Further cakes and pies are available including a guide to making the wedding cake produced for Elvis and Priscilla. The recipe comes straight from the source at the Aladdin Hotel so you can create your own version of the real thing should a happy day arrive for you or a friend/relative.
There are a substantial amount of recipes on offer here, varying in ingredients, creation and calories. And these are often variations on classic or regional dishes (Miss Vertie’s Sweet Potato Pie and her Corn Bread) to the unique aspects of Elvis’s dietary oddities in the Graceland years including the legendary Fool’s Gold Loaf (‘Fools Rush In Where Angels Fear to Tread’), his favourite pizza (Coletta’s Barbecue Pizza) and his culinary invention, the simple and tasty Peanut Butter & Cheese Sandwich (a variant on an old roadhouse favourite of his younger years, the Fried Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich, but easier to make at home). There is even a useful shopping list should you wish to attempt to cook the recipes provided – but presumably ‘It’s Impossible’ to obtain the variety of cigars in the shopping list these days.
The helpfully detailed and nicely laid out recipe guides add to this a very interesting biographical cookbook. Once read it will be ‘Always On Your Mind’.
As with all recipe books be sure to follow the directions otherwise you may find that your bowls are not what they seem.
“Food is interesting. For instance, why do we need to eat?” questions the aphorism guru The Log Lady before providing an in-depth consideration of edible ethics.
So here, for you to digest, are a plethora of dishes inspired by David Lynch’s Twin Peaks (Population 51,201, although that varies).
Food is an integral part of many films but is particularly important in television series where diners, restaurants, pubs, bars, cafes and coffee shops are often central to character and plot development as much as food and its preparation. The quirky, surreal and occasionally bizarre TV 1990s drama Twin Peaks was no exception and a multitude of dishes, delicacies and general foodie oddness stretched across the series. Coffee was integral, especially for FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper who could often discuss the coffee served: “You know, this is – excuse me – a damn fine cup of coffee,” and his preference for a brew that is “black as midnight on a moonless night,” to the extent that canned Georgia Coffee in Japan even had its own great Twin Peaks adverts that tied in with the series in its own very distinct way. And then, of course, there are the cherry pies. Indeed the basis of the title of this cookery book, coupled with its delightful cover illustration, depicts Twin Peaks as slices of pie.
Before starting, there are a couple of points to mention. This publication has not been prepared, approved or licensed by any entity or individual that created or produced the TV programme. It also is focussed on the Twin Peaks world of the original series and Fire Walk With Me film rather than the series filmed and set 25 year later that reassembled the location, characters and crew to offer new directions and dimensions. This is, however, not a problem in any way and gives the original series, and its cuisine, a welcome exploration.
Damn Fine Cherry Pie – Recipes Inspired by Twin Peaks does not hold back on the number and diversity of recipes on offer so there is something for everyone. Indeed, as the title would suggest, “They’ve got a cherry pie there that’ll kill ya.” There are two such recipes to choose from – the Shelly Johnson version or a useful vegan pie from Norma Jennings. But there is more to enjoy aside from the cooking as there are a number of other excursions into the world of Twin Peaks you can engage with, from quizzes, origami and even a Ludo game. If planning a Peaks party there are fashion and costume options to ensure that you look the part at any gathering and also, should you have more seductive foodie Peaky plans, you can (practice required) learn to tie a knot a cherry stalk like Audrey Horne.
“This must be where pies go when they die,” is one of the show’s many memorable quotes and fortunately there’s an interesting tasty Blueberry Whoopie Pie on offer with helpful owl themed design for that dessert. There are many sweet foods on offer, so varieties of donut imbue the pages – including Coffee Donuts. Then there’s the mix of sweet and savoury that can’t be beaten when making Maple Ham Pancakes: “Nothing beats the taste sensation when maple syrup collides with ham.” For Scandinavian food fans (or guests at the Great Northern hotel) there are recipes for Icelandic Hangikjot and Norwegian Meatballs and Gravy. But do remember there are rules to abide amidst all this culinary joy; “never drink coffee that has been anywhere near a fish.” Wise words, perhaps, although you’ll be pleased to know there is an extremely tasty looking trout based Percolator Fish Supper here, which sounds ideal with its bourbon, garlic butter and lemon. We would contend that you should never eat fish that has been anywhere near coffee, but that could well be personal preference.
The recipes are all related to characters, events and environments in the series. Overall it’s a fun foodie folio that offers a lot to create and eat but also provides perspectives for Twin Peaks gatherings as well as the desire to re-watch (or watch if you’ve never experienced it before) a television classic of murder, mystery and distinct surrealism. Recommended both for daily meals and, particularly, for those Twin Peaks parties you know you always wanted to have or just a good old-fashioned series binge watch. With a damn fine cup of coffee of course. And perhaps a slice of cherry pie. Or two.
by Niki Segnit
Most cookery books have a picture of beautifully presented delicious food on the cover to tantalise the tastebuds. The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit is just as enticing but from an entirely different perspective.
It’s a large colour wheel or, more precisely, half a colour wheel that adorns the front cover. Fear not, if you open to the very first page, the full colour wheel is revealed in all its glory and immediately the purpose of The Flavour Thesaurus becomes clear.
The book’s aim is to demonstrate how different flavours can complement each other. So the colour wheel represents a number of flavours which are divided into particular categories. Meaty, cheesy, marine are straightforward definitions, more descriptive definitions include earthy, mustardy, spicy, woodland. Fruity is further split so that you can fresh, floral or creamy fruity. Then each category has sub-categories which represent the ingredients’ flavours. So meaty comprises: chicken, pork, black pudding, liver, beef, lamb whereas creamy fruity has: banana, melon, apricot, peach, coconut, mango.
And that’s just the first page. After a brief introduction to the purpose of the project, Segnit then launches straight into the thesaurus element. Each flavour category has a chapter and each ingredient within that category its own section. Where the ingredient complements another flavour in the thesaurus Segnit then writes up a paragraph explaining how the particular flavours complement each other with maybe an interesting anecdote thrown in and a high-level but perfectly functional recipe to get your creative cookery juices flowing. These also reference chefs, cooks and food critics’ recipes and opinions (sometimes conflicting) on the success – or not – of the combinations. And these recipes aren’t restricted to western palettes the flavours are derived from all over the world.
Some of the combinations are, of course, tried and tested classics, others more surprising. Who knew, for example, that the Russian Tsar’s children tucked into caviar and mashed banana for breakfast? Or that chocolate might complement cauliflower? Or that blueberries work well with mushrooms?
As well as being a cookery book that is fun simply to read, it also encourages you to experiment. Open the store cupboard, have a poke inside and see what ingredients are there to put together. Who knows what flavour combination you might discover?
You can buy The Flavour Thesaurus by clicking the picture below.