Food has a powerful way of shaping memories and leaving lasting impressions on our lives. For many of us, certain dishes can transport us back to moments of joy, sadness, celebration, or comfort. For American cultural icons like musician Elvis Presley, the foods he loved and the stories behind them can offer fascinating insights into his personalities and legacies when there are differing accounts.
Beyond his musical legacy, Elvis Presley’s favorite foods have become a cultural touchstone, symbolizing his Southern roots, down-to-earth personality, and impact on the culinary world. Since Presley died in 1977, there are countless tributes to his musical legacy, but also introspective takes on all areas of his life, including his eating habits—what he ate, where it happened, and why it matters.
David Stanley, Elvis’s stepbrother and former bodyguard is often asked about what that Elvis ate, as people are interested in the culinary preferences of the music icon. He also revealed the one food-related fact that he thinks many people get wrong about Elvis.
“Well, he ate peanut butter and banana sandwiches, and I did too,” said Stanley. “I grew up on them; they’re from the South! The media has made it a thing that it’s a special sandwich.” Stanley shared that the sandwich was not unique to Elvis but reflected their Southern roots, emphasizing Presley’s love of Southern cuisine.
“Now they said this peanut butter with bacon on it—Elvis never did that,” declared Stanley. “They turned it into a fried sandwich—it was a grilled cheese type-sandwich. But they made such a big deal about it, but he loved them. I loved them.”
Investigating the Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich
Digging into the origins of the iconic fried sandwich and its ingredients has resulted in conflicting accounts, adding to the intrigue surrounding Elvis Presley’s culinary preferences. Food historians, Elvis enthusiasts, and even his own family members have shared differing recollections and interpretations of this beloved dish.
For instance, the 1992 cookbook ‘Are You Hungry Tonight?: Elvis’ Favorite Recipes’ compiled by Brenda Butler, includes the recipe for peanut butter and ‘nana sandwiches but doesn’t mention bacon as an ingredient. In an interview on his Youtube channel Memphis Mafia Kid, Elvis’s cousin, Danny Smith, stated that he never saw Presley eat these sandwiches with bacon.
On the other hand, some believe including bacon in the sandwich is a crucial aspect of its creation. The 1996 BBC 4 documentary ‘The Burger & the King: The Life & Cuisine of Elvis Presley” explores this claim, shedding light on differing opinions and adding to the intrigue surrounding Elvis’s food choices.
These conflicting accounts invite us to contemplate the subjectivity of memory and how a shared experience can be experienced differently by different people. Each account, whether from a relative, ex-lover, business associate, or biographer, contributes to the complex tapestry of Elvis’s culinary legacy and shapes our understanding of the man behind the music.
Ultimately, whether the iconic peanut butter and banana sandwich had bacon is secondary to its deeper exploration: the rich cultural significance of food memory, the power of personal interpretation, and the enduring nostalgia tied to certain flavors.
Amidst the many stereotypes surrounding Elvis’s eating habits, Stanley reminds us that Elvis was someone who enjoyed comfort food. His preferences included burgers, chicken, and dumplings, which reflected his fond memories and connections to Memphis. Stanley and the crew generally followed suit, “I’d just go downstairs to the steakhouse or to Benihana. That one has been here since this place opened.”
It struck me that Stanley was just 16 years old when he made the journey from Memphis to Vegas to join his stepbrother, Elvis. Imagine the awe and excitement of a teenager stepping into the dazzling world of Las Vegas, working alongside one of the biggest music icons ever, who just happened to be his sibling. “I was working for Elvis Presley, my big brother and I grew up here. jSome people went to college. This was EPU for me: Elvis Presley University.”
Contemplating Legacy and Memory
The question of what Elvis ate goes beyond mere facts. It becomes a matter of personal interpretation and perception. Furthermore, recent research on food memories and nostalgia, such as the study published in the Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management, highlights the significant role of food in preserving and transmitting cultural heritage through its associated memories. This study explores how food memories are constructed within a community, shedding light on the narratives, emotions, and sensory experiences that contribute to the enduring nostalgia surrounding certain foods.
Fans visiting Las Vegas have an unparalleled opportunity to delve deeper into Elvis’s life and legacy at the Westgate Resort and Casino. As the former International Hotel, now Westgate, this iconic venue holds immense historical significance in Elvis’s career and a profound connection to Las Vegas. “My Brother Elvis,” an exclusive exhibition running through the end of the year at the Westgate, offers a unique backstage tour of the International Theater and Elvis’s private dressing room. Led by Stanley himself, this immersive experience not only shares fascinating stories and debunks myths firsthand but also provides a glimpse into the remarkable journey of Elvis and his enduring impact on Vegas culture.
Amidst the neon lights of the Vegas strip, we are reminded us that even the biggest icons can find comfort in the foods and places we call come. It’s a reminder that amidst the glitz and glamour, food and the memories shared can be a unifying force that brings people together, regardless of their status or fame.