Gibbons was a naturalist and writer who did tv commercials in the seventies; typically he stood in a roadside ditch waving a cattail as he talked about living off the land. I thought he was a fruit cake wacko.
But the other day, I read an account of a 6 day camping trip he took with John McPhee one fall in Pennsylvania. Called The Forager, the story is part of Secret Ingredients, a collection of stories, mostly funny, from the New Yorker magazine on all things gastronomic.
The two set out with a canoe, sleeping bags, nested pots and a Coleman stove. They did not carry any food supplies with them intending to gather all of their meals from the countryside. After the first few days, they agreed they would introduce, a meal at a time, certain staples such as salt and cooking oil picked up en route.
Euell Gibbons ate what he foraged because he liked it not because he was a survivalist. Left to his own devices he’d make liberal use of butter, eggs and spices.
Along with describing the 16 meals they share, McPhee includes Gibbon’s wry observations about all manner of things and interesting details about his fully lived life. The fortunate reader gets to vicariously feast on dandelion roots, oyster mushrooms, persimmons and catnip tea.
Gibbons was 64 when he died in ’75. If he was alive today I bet he’d have a huge following with Tweets such as:
Not suffering like the early Christians.
Mushroom? Toadstool? Learn the good ones or die.
Toss out the crops. Eat the weeds.
I never was a hay burner.