Ever Eat a Pine Tree?

If I ask you to recall a catchphrase – a word or statement you heard repeatedly and probably won’t forget – you could come up with several examples. Movie quotes, for instance. (“I’m the king of the world!”)  Song lyrics. (“I get by with a little help from my friends.”)  And television commercials; where the product or “jingle” yields a branded catchphrase. Just this week I learned a new one: bindle stiff, which describes a homeless person through the bag of personal items (bindle) on the end of his/her stick. I’m no hobo, but Euell Gibbons once was. And Gibbons once uttered one of the most famous catchphrases ever.

Who the heck is Euell Gibbons?  Any American kid growing up in the 1970’s would know.  Gibbons was the spokesperson for Post Grape-Nuts cereal, made instantly famous by a single television commercial where he uttered, “Ever eat a pine tree?  Many parts are edible.”  That statement was so bizarre – and laugh-out-loud to us kids – it spread like wildfire (and sold a ton of Grape-Nuts cereal). But it was only recently I learned Gibbons wasn’t just a hired bindle stiff, but a man ahead of his time.  He had a lifelong interest in foods foraged from “nutritious-but-oft-neglected plants” (surely learned from an impoverished and transient childhood).  He wrote several successful whole-foods cookbooks, including “Stalking the Wild Asparagus” (1964) and “A Wild Way to Eat” (1967).  In his later years, Gibbons and his wife joined a community of Quakers in Philadelphia, where he cooked the daily shared breakfast (of course he did).

“Many parts are edible.”

I love Grape-Nuts cereal, back to when I was a kid.  I’m not sure if Gibbons gets the credit, or because Grape-Nuts just tastes good (“…reminds me of wild hickory nuts…”, as Gibbons also said).  Admittedly, Grape-Nuts was a little off the beaten path of children’s cereals.  Very low in fat and sugar, Grape-Nuts looked and crunched like a bowl of light brown gravel.  Add in milk as a softener and sugar as a sweetener however, and something about the cereal just clicked with me.  After college I forced myself to give up Grape-Nuts, because I developed jaw pain from too many hard foods.  Maybe that’s why Post developed Grape-Nuts “Flakes” cereal, or Grape-Nuts “Trail Mix Crunch Cranberry Vanilla”.


Speaking of trail mix (convenient segue), Euell Gibbons comes back to the conversation.  Trail mix was introduced about the time Gibbons was born (1910), as a combination of dried fruit and nuts.  Trail mix was lightweight and therefore easy to carry on long hikes.  The carbs and fat created a quick energy source and an ideal snack food, and the mix became immensely popular to outdoors-people, especially sugared up with a few M&M’s or yogurt coverings (which Gibbons never would’ve approved of).  Yet it wasn’t always called “trail mix”.  In another word familiar to 1970’s kids, Gibbons coined the acronym GORP, which either meant “good ol’-fashioned raisins and peanuts”, or “granola, oats, raisins, and peanuts”.  Yep, I ate a lot of GORP in my childhood.  Might’ve even had my first taste at Hadley Fruit Orchards, a place in the California desert my parents like to frequent.  Hadley – alongside others – claims to be the “inventor” of trail mix.

Euell T. Gibbons

As if “Euell Gibbons” is not unique enough for an American, his middle name was “Theophilus”.  The only Theophilus I’m aware of lived in biblical times, when Luke wrote his Gospel (and the book of Acts) as letters to an individual by the same name.  Perhaps Gibbons should’ve lived in biblical times.  As God’s people sought the Holy Land he could’ve helped them with his foraging skills.  Or at least introduced them to Grape-Nuts.

Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

Author: Dave

Three hundred posts would suggest I have something to say… This blog was born from a desire to elevate the English language, highlighting eloquent words from days gone by. The stories I share are snippets of life itself, and each comes with a bonus: a dusted-off word I hope you’ll go on to use more often. Read “Deutschland-ish Improvements” to learn about my backyard European wish list. Try “Slush Fun” for the throwback years of the 7-Eleven convenience store. Or drink in "Iced Coffee" to discover the plight of the rural French cafe. On the lighter side, read "Late Night Racquet Sports" for my adventures with our latest moth invasion. As Walt Whitman said, “That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.” Here then, my verse. Welcome to Life In A Word.

8 thoughts on “Ever Eat a Pine Tree?”

  1. While many classic commercials of the 1970s are available on YouTube, sadly the one where he points to a pine tree and says “Many parts are edible” is not among them. I have been looking for this for years.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What a shame; I assumed you could pull up that commercial like it was yesterday. I can certainly still hear Gibbons saying those immortal words in my mind.


  2. I remember the commercials and Euell Gibbons. I make my own trail mix/GORP with lots of nuts and mix in whole-grain Goldfish crackers. They are my only salty snack indulgence and I am just crazy for them. I must pour them out in a paper cup, then put the bag away, so I just put them into the trail mix and be moderate about my consumption that way. I gave up those gravelly Grape Nuts for the same reason as you – too much crunching and clutching of the jaw. I have TMJ and have had it for years and wear at bite splint at night. My TMJ has never bothered me, but the dentist and hygienist cringe when they say “open wide” and my jaw pops. I really miss the Nature Valley Granola Bars (the original crunchy ones) that I ate between classes in college. They have this revitalized ad campaign that is on the news radio station all day long that makes me want to go buy a package every time I hear it, but I have decided with two crowns as a result of cavities in bottom molars from long ago, I’m not risking damage to those crowns to indulge in those hard granola bars, so I do without. Getting older is a pain sometimes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Getting older is a pain sometimes” – ha! But TMJ is no joke, I agree. The radiating pain it created for me was annoying and painful, and I wore a mouthguard at night for a long time until the sensation backed off. I also had to curb my habits with Grape Nuts and all things chewy (which was especially difficult with my love of licorice). Now I’ve learned to eat those foods in moderation, which most would say is a good approach whether or not TMJ is a factor.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I was lucky no pain, but those popping noises which has always had the dentist shaking his head. Grape Nuts are satisfying though, like eating rustic bread – savoring your food that way. It’s good to be a texture eater as you get more enjoyment out of your food – yes, moderation is the key!


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