Euell Gibbons

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Euell Theophilus Gibbons
Gibbons-Euell 6923497 123056590241.jpg
Gibbons circa 1960
Born (1911-09-08)September 8, 1911
Clarksville, Texas
Died December 29, 1975(1975-12-29) (aged 64)
Sunbury Community Hospital
Sunbury, Pennsylvania
Cause of death
Marfan syndrome
Spouse(s) Freda Fryer

Euell Theophilus Gibbons (September 14, 1911 – December 29, 1975) was an outdoorsman and proponent of natural diets during the 1960s.

He was born in Clarksville, Texas, on September 14, 1911, and spent much of his youth in the hilly terrain of New Mexico during the dust bowl era. His mother taught him about foods available in the wild. As an adult he spent time in several states working a variety of jobs. During a stay in Hawaii from 1947 to 1951, he met and married Freda Fryer. Throughout his travels his interest in wild foods continued and he experimented with new recipes and consulted experts.

Career[edit]

Although Gibbons longed to be a writer, he had difficulty getting published. However, capitalizing on the growing return-to-nature movement in 1962, his first book, Stalking the Wild Asparagus, became an instant success. From the cover blurb:

A delightful book on the recognition, gathering, preparation and use of the natural health foods that grow wild all about us. The lore here can turn every field, forest, swamp, vacant lot and roadside into a health-food market with free merchandise.

Gibbons then produced the cookbooks Stalking the Blue-Eyed Scallop in 1964 and Stalking the Healthful Herbs in 1966. He was widely published in various magazines, including two pieces which appeared in National Geographic Magazine. The first article, in the July 1972 issue, described a two-week stay on an uninhabited island off the coast of Maine where Gibbons along with his wife Freda and a few family friends relied solely on the island's resources for sustenance. The second article, which appeared in the August 1973 issue, features Gibbons, along with granddaughter Colleen and grandson Mike, and Daughter-in-Law Patricia, stalking wild foods in four western states.

Gibbons's publishing success brought him fame. He made guest appearances on The Tonight Show and The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from Susquehanna University.

A 1974 television commercial for Post Grape-Nuts cereal featured Gibbons asking viewers "Ever eat a pine tree? Many parts are edible." While he recommended eating Grape Nuts over eating pine trees (Grape Nuts' taste "reminds me of wild hickory nuts"), the quote caught the public's imagination and fueled his celebrity status. Johnny Carson joked about sending Gibbons a "lumber-gram", and Gibbons himself joined in the humor; when presented with a wooden award plaque by Sonny and Cher, he good-naturedly took a bite out of it. (The "plaque" was actually an edible prop.)

Often mistaken for a survivalist, Gibbons was simply an advocate of nutritious but neglected plants. He typically prepared these not in the wild, but in the kitchen with abundant use of spices, butter and garnishes. Several of his books discuss what he called "wild parties": dinner parties where guests were served dishes prepared from plants gathered in the wild. His favorite recommendations included lamb's quarters, rose hips, young dandelion shoots, stinging nettle and cattails. He often pointed out that gardeners threw away the more tasty and healthy crop when they pulled such weeds as purslane and amaranth out from among their spinach plants.

Gibbons died on December 29, 1975, at Sunbury Community Hospital in Sunbury, Pennsylvania.[1] His death was the result of a ruptured aortic aneurysm, a complication from Marfan syndrome.

Legacy[edit]

He was posthumously satirized by cartoonist Scott Shaw as "You-All Gibbon - The Junk Food Monkey" in the independently published comic book "Quack!".[1]. There is also a mention of him in the song Junk Food Junkie from 1976. Gibbons is also one of the Saints in the novel by Margaret Atwood The Year of the Flood (2009). His first and last name were also used in a pun in the short story "Dog Day Evening" written by Spider Robinson and first published in 1977.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Stalking the Wild Asparagus (1962)
  • Stalking the Blue-Eyed Scallop (1964)
  • Stalking the Healthful Herbs (1966)
  • Stalking the Good Life (1966)
  • Beachcomber's Handbook (1967)
  • A Wild Way To Eat (1967) for the Hurricane Island Outward Bound School
  • Stalking the Faraway Places (1973)
  • (collected in) American Food Writing: An Anthology with Classic Recipes, ed. Molly O'Neill (Library of America, 2007) ISBN 1-59853-005-4
  • Feast on a Diabetic Diet (1973)
  • Euell Gibbons' Handbook of Edible Wild Plants (1979)

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Euell Gibbons Dies at 64; Wrote Books About Natural Foods". New York Times. December 30, 1975. Retrieved 2008-03-23. "Euell Gibbons, author of books on natural foods, was pronounced dead on arrival in Sunbury Community Hospital tonight. The cause of death was not immediately disclosed. He was 64 years old." 

Further reading[edit]

Euell Gibbons Handbook of Edible Wild Plants. Compiled by Gordon Tuncker and Freda Gibbons published in 1979 by A Unilaw Library Book Donning Virginia Beach Norfolk

External links[edit]