Euell Gibbons -Cast your mind back for a moment (if you are of a certain age). It’s the late 1960s and you’re watching TV – a commercial for Grapenuts Cereal comes on. A craggy looking guy with mussed hair and a glint holds up what looks like a chunk of bark and says “Many parts of a pine tree are edible”. And because of him, we never looked at tree bark the same way ever again.
Euell Gibbons was something of a Folk Notable of the 1960s and early 70s – when Hippy-tie-dye-back-to-the-garden/patchouli-and-incense was a lifestyle, Gibbons seemed to fit right it. Strange as it may seem, you could probably trace the introduction of Granola and Trailmix to our culture by way of Euell Gibbons.
Aside from being something of a Pop-Culture icon and spokesman for Grapenuts, he was a highly-touted author who wrote about his experiences, foraging and finding edibles in all the strangest places. He did once, as he does in this interview, admit he found some 16 varieties of edible vegetation in a vacant neighborhood lot – although he also confessed to not taking advantage of it, he did say it was possible. And maybe that spoke volumes to the rugged-individual wannabe who gazed lovingly at the idyllic notion of the commune, a social movement that began in the early 60s and 1970s, all the way until his death in 1975. And his death was from an aortic aneurysm and not food poisoning, as a few myth-junkies spread shortly after.
This interview, from the Book Beat series, comes from 1967 and he is busy promoting his then-latest Beachcombers Handbook, which extolled the virtues of edibles found along the average seashore. One wonders if the same principles apply, since pollution from oil spills and nuclear accidents have put a dent in even fish life – one imagines there is much to chew on that’s still okay being washed up from the sea.
But in case you forgot this little slice of Pop Culture, which was a conversation starter for a lot of parties, here is an interview with Euell Gibbons from 1967 to remind you.