David and I decided to finally give Elvis Presley his glory and celebrate his birthday. Although he would have been 77 on Jan. 8, we knew we wouldn't get many people here on a weeknight, and decided to throw a traditional Shabbat (Sabbath) dinner in his honor on the Jewish Sabbath. After all, the King had Jewish ancestry on his mother's side, so we knew he'd approve.
I have a genuine love of Elvis after three years of employment at Graceland, and I am always eager to initiate the uninitiated. I planned a traditional Southern meal for the occasion:
"Burning Love" Fried Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwiches
"Fever" chorizo beef sausage
Glady Presley’s Corn Bread
"Love Me Tender" BBQ Chicken
"Too Much" Memphis Coleslaw
"Viva Las Vegas" Lady Luck Black Eyed Peas
"Polk Salad Annie" Collard Greens
"Hound Dog" Baked Hush Puppies
"You're The Devil in Disguise" Pineapple Ice Box Cake (photo and recipe)
David, our sommelier, chose Clos Bel-Air's Montagne-Saint-Emilion wine to accompany our selection of beer and Coca-Cola. I'm not sure what that wine had to do with Elvis, but it is from France, and I'm sure Elvis French kissed!
Thanks to the handiwork of my sister, Lillie, we had awesome looking decorations including Elvis place mats and a kick-ass centerpiece for the table. David strung up Lillie's garlands and festive Elvis Birthday lights. You didn't think we'd leave the throne room undecorated, did you? The rock n' roll gods blessed us, and my mom sent some Elvis-themed gifts, including a Blue Hawaii tray that we used as a challah plate, a little pink Cadillac, and cups and napkins. Seriously, opening that box was better than Christmas, and I'm pretty sure this was the first time in history that someone served challah on a Blue Hawaii-themed item.
The meal was meant to be tasty, celebratory, informative, and, above all, FUN. To that end, we interrupted dinner several times to engage in some Elvis trivia questions ranging from the mundane ("How many movies did Elvis star in?" Answer: 33), to the racy ("Why was Priscilla Presley embarrassed to go to the Walgreens in Memphis?" Answer: because everyone knew why she was buying up all the Polaroid film, according to her book "Elvis & Me").
One of the most enjoyable parts of the evening for me was the Elvis Presley sing-a-long we did. David and I chose five of Elvis' most famous hits spanning his career and printed selected lyrics on a song sheet, which we all sang. What we lacked in talent we made up for in enthusiasm!
I had a huge smile on my face all night. My guests seemed to have a blast and enjoy dinner, and I have no doubt that all of us learned something about The King. Three days after the meal, I'm still getting very warm texts and emails from people who were here. The reason it was so much fun is that our friends got really into it, for which I'm thankful. They patiently listened while I regaled them with tales of working at Graceland, the best job of my life.
We wanted our guests to carry the spirit of the King into their life, so they left with a cute little Elvis magnet as a party favor.
There is little doubt that thanks to the success of this endeavor that Elvis Birthday Shabbat will be an annual event. What remains to be seen is whether it will stay small or morph into a bigger party so we can share the gospel with more acolytes. Long live The King!