But for me the real charm of Gibbons is his evocation of how we ate in the past; far, far in the past when all food was wild food. He speculates that mankind has probably eaten "many millions of tons more of acorns...than of the cereal grains". Fascinating, when you consider that no groceries now carry this formerly prevalent staple, as though it were as useless as an 8-track tape. Gibbons reminds that dandelions were prescribed by primitive doctors to ward off diseases caused by vitamin deficiency long before we had any concept of a vitamin. He is mindful, as he plucks wild grape leaves, that the Vikings reported the presence of grapes on our continent a thousand years ago, and thought that important enough to name it Vinland.
His style is what one would expect from an amiable, erudite grandfather, a member of one of the last generations that saw starvation in America, and that knew the delight of tasting fresh spring greens after a long winter without vegetables.Read more ›
This book is fun to read because of Euell's way of writing as if he were walking beside you in a field, pointing out the bounties of nature to you personally. His praise of the humble cat-tail, seen in any marsh or even in highway medians is nothing short of a miracle. I think he could survive on cat-tails alone for weeks.
Perhaps Euell felt so strongly about wild foods because as a teen during the Depression in the Texas dustbowl, he provided for the family during a particularly lean time, by gathering wild foods to supplement their diet of mostly pinto beans. He wandered many states later on in his life, finally settling in Camp Hill, PA with his wife Freda, but he never lost his love of wild foods and his feeling that, no one need be hungry if he is a friend of nature.
This book is especially poignant if you have read Into the Wild by Krakauer, the account of a young man who strikes off into the wilds of Alaska to test his mettle, and perishes from a fatal mistake in botany. I recommend all of Euell Gibbon's books, but especially this one, as it was written straight from his heart. After 30 years, it still never fails to enchant.