You Are What You Read: The International Edible Book Festival

Apr 15, 2011

Do you have a ravenous appetite for exceptional books? How about an intense passion for delicious cuisine? If you have twin cravings for great literature and primo provisions, the International Edible Book Festival may be just your thing.

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By Douglas Fehlen

International Edible Book Festival cooking culinary confection baking gourmand gourmet gastronome reader literature

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An Extraordinary Event

Readers and gourmands are both known to have unparalleled reverence for their affections, so it only makes sense that there should be a festival that marries a love of literature and a zeal for great meals.

The International Edible Book Festival, held annually around April 1, brings people from around the world together in creating comestibles that look like books. Individuals often participate through local book arts organizations and then post pictures of their creative confections at the festival's website. The festival was established more than a decade ago and has drawn entries from lit-loving epicures from some two dozen countries.

Why a festival featuring edible books? Organizers suggest that the idea was inspired by an admiration of Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, a French gastronome who lived from 1755-1826. The epicure also was an author who is credited with helping to create the culinary essay genre. Reflecting the spirit of his life, the festival is intended to be 'a celebration of the ingestion of culture and a way to concretely share a book; it is also a deeper reflection on our attachment to food and our cultural differences.'

International Edible Book Festival cooking culinary confection baking gourmand gourmet gastronome reader literature

Limited Only By Imagination

So just what does a person go about creating to participate in the International Edible Book Festival? Whatever she or he wants. 'Edible' is pretty self-explanatory, of course, and can include the sweet, savory and everything between. And guidelines as to what constitutes 'book'-related are pretty open. According to the festival's website, 'All edible books must be bookish through the integration of text, literary inspiration or, quite simply, the form.'

This latitude allows for a great degree of culinary and artistic interpretation, as demonstrated by the wide variety of examples that can be found in the festival's galleries. Creations can feature books with made-up titles. For example, one person's entry called The Book of Lefse capitalizes on that Scandinavian staple's color and texture to emulate the pocked consistency of yellowed book folios. Another participant created a confection cleverly titled Fillosophy - evidently sustaining for both the mind and stomach.

While some opt for books of their imagination, many others choose to immortalize existing titles with their fantastical foods. Celebrating a children's classic, one contributor's Green Eggs and Ham is comprised of . . . well, green eggs and ham. Representing the classics, Tortilla Flat sticks closely to John Steinbeck's version, the food iteration visually represented through the use of that important Hispanic foodstuff.

No library, of course, is complete without a reference section. The moveable orgiastic feast that is the International Edible Book Festival has that covered, too, including dictionaries. One participant's entry re-imagines that important desk resource in the form of a cake. Of course, in our age of cultural reappropriation, literary mashups require representation. That's been covered by one participants work called The Red Cabbage of Courage, starring, naturally, a head of red cabbage.

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