What Southern Folks Eat: Elvis, Mama and me
“Well, that's alright, mama, that's alright for you; That's alright mama, just anyway you do,
Well, that's alright, that's alright, That's alright now mama, anyway you do…” ~as sung by Elvis Aaron Presley
August 16, 1977 was a typical hot summer day in Northwest Florida. My little sister and I were outside playing with our friends on our street on St. Joe Beach as we did many other days, riding bikes and playing games together.
That afternoon was different, though. A little boy named Greg came running out of his house, a house that’s not there on Gulf Street anymore, with breaking news.
“Elvis is dead! He’s really dead!” he called out as he ran. We all yelled back to him that he was making that up. That couldn’t be true.
Elvis had been a part of my life as long as I can remember. My mom was a serious Elvis fan, and she let me listen to her albums, as long as I was careful not to scratch them.
I listened to them on my little record player in my room, including the beautiful blue vinyl album called Moody Blue, which had been released just a short time before this day. I had memorized the hit songs on Elvis, A Legendary Performer, Vol. 1. I sang along happily with his Christmas album each November and December. Because my mama loved Elvis, I did, too.
I ran inside our little gray cement block house and asked her if it was true; was Elvis really dead? Her sad face confirmed to me that he really was. The news had broken as she watched her “stories,” as she referred to the soap operas she watched on ABC. The King of Rock and Roll was really gone.
Even as a 10-year-old child I recognized the great loss that it was. I walked back over to where my friends were still playing across the street, and told them it really was true, that it had been on the news and everything. We all felt as mournful as little children know how to be, not fully having a grasp on what death means, but still, knowing it was big.
For the next week or so, as I recall, there was a lot of Elvis news on tv. There were videos of fans lining up outside his lovely home, Graceland, as well as along the streets leading up to it. Women were weeping as men stood somberly by their sides. There were flowers and other remembrances set up as makeshift memorials along the fence as the mourners paid their respects outside his home.
When the day came for the funeral, the tv cameras recorded the procession driving along with his remains inside. It reminded me of the day several years before, when a friend’s mother had taken us to a mall in Charlotte, N.C. where Elvis’ pink Cadillac was on display for people to look at up close. I remember thinking it was a very nice shiny car, but it wasn’t nearly as bright a pink as my young imagination had pictured. It was pale and lovely, not the Pepto-Bismol pink vision I had in my mind. Nonetheless, it was Elvis’ car, and I got to see it with my own eyes, and I even sneaked a touch of the passenger door, though we weren’t supposed to do that. It was exciting.
And now, the King of Rock and Roll was being driven along in front of tv cameras in a hearse, a stark contrast to the beautiful pink car I admired so much.
I went back to my room and turned on my little record player, and with mama’s permission, I listened to Elvis sing to me again about his blue suede shoes and how his mama liked the roses. I sang along with a brain newly awakened to the importance of music and those who create it, underlined with the beginning of my understanding of death and the need to appreciate the people we love while they’re with us.
As we near the 43rd anniversary of his death, let’s reflect upon all the wonderful music Elvis Aaron Presley contributed to our world. As I do that, my mind naturally goes next to what he contributed to us in a different way: the world of Southern food. He was not said to be much of a chef, though he did fry a mean barbecued bologna sandwich, they say, but his penchant for peanut butter and banana sandwiches is most well known.
As a country boy who hailed from Memphis by way of Tupelo, Mississippi, he was raised on traditional foods like fried chicken, meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and coconut cake. In honor of those Southern roots and for the anniversary of his death, I would like to share with you my own favorite recipe for meatloaf. I hope you enjoy it in good health this week, and that it holds up to the recipe Ms. Gladys used to feed her little son Elvis many years ago.
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon mustard (yellow or Dijon)
2 teaspoons packed light brown sugar
2 pounds ground beef
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 large eggs
1 slice white bread, torn into small pieces
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (cut back on this amount if sensitive to spicy food)
Heat oven to 350 °F.
In a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup ketchup, mustard and light brown sugar. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, combine all the meatloaf ingredients and mix well; using your hands is the easiest and best way to distribute the ingredients through the meat.
Press the mixture into a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan, or shape into a loaf on a foil-lined baking sheet with raised sides to catch drips.
Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush some of the glaze over the top of the meatloaf. Bake for 30 minutes more.
Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes. Use remaining glaze to drizzle over just before cutting.
Stephanie Hill-Frazier is a writer, food blogger and regional television chef, whose on-air nickname is “Mama Steph.” She grew up in Gulf County, on St. Joe Beach, a place she will forever call home.
She is married and has three young adult sons who are significantly taller than she is. You can find more of her recipes at WhatSouthernFolksEat.com or contact her at email@example.com.