Fifth Annual Edible Book Festival promotes literary creativity

By Jacob Pierce, @JacobPierce1_DE

A library can be a daunting place for some people. The Edible Book Festival plans to make libraries a little more welcoming.

Morris Library will host the Fifth Annual Edible Book Festival on April 1 from 3 to 5 p.m. The event will be located in the first floor rotunda and involves contests with several different categories of edible books, including Best in Show, People’s Choice and Punniest.

The event was created by Judith A. Hoffberg, an art curator and librarian, and Beatrice Coron, an artist, in 2000. Its philosophies come from French food lover Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, whose fame comes from a book on the meditation of food.

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The Festival is always held on April 1, Brillat-Savarin’s birthday, and can be held by any school who sends a request through the International Edible Book Festival’s website.  

It was brought to Southern Illinois University Carbondale by former humanities and fine art librarian, Megan Lotts and former preservation librarian Julie Mosbo.

Sarah Prindle, humanities and fine arts librarian at Morris Library, has coordinated the event since 2014.

“Libraries are looked at as serious, literature is so serious,” she said. “In fact, both are more about play, silliness and pad puns than people think.”

She said an edible book is a physical representation of a novel using food. The possibilities are only limited to being related to fiction. Some people prefer to make versions of the books out of food, while some make illustrations from the story out of food, Prindle said.

“The thought behind it is just as important as the craftsmanship,” she said.

Part of making libraries and literature fun, is to add humor to them, especially through puns, which are huge in the Edible Book Festival, Prindle said.

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“There is something revolutionary in a bad pun,” Prindle said.

A key goal for the festival in its fifth iteration is to involve more people. Lotts ran the event until 2013 when she left SIU. Afterward, the event became a smaller gathering, going from as many as 25 entries, to six entries, Prindle said. When Prindle came in 2014, she decide to restore the festival to its original form.

Susan Tulis, the associate dean for Information Services—who used to help publicize the event—is now on the participant’s side.

“It is the perfect day to eat your words,” she said. “And to play with them as books.”

Her category of choice tends to be punniest, she said. Last year she created an edible book based on Janet Evanovich’s “Sizzling Sixteen.” It was made out of a frying pan and sixteen pieces of bacon, Tulis said.

People do not realize the entries do not have to be based on fine literature, a lot of great pieces coming from popular fiction, she said.One of last year’s winners was a marshmallow dessert based on the children’s book “The Little Engine That Could,” Tulis said.

“It is a very clever way of getting people to look at books, look at the titles and be able to come up with something very creative to represent that book,” She said.

Pat Luebke, the children’s librarian at the Carbondale Public Library, has partnered with the Edible Book Festival for two years now. The library held an edible story time both years to help support the event, Luebke said.

The festival helps kids be creative in general, she said. Story time can be more of a two dimensional way of thinking, involving this helps the kids think more three dimensionally.  Something like this pushes the creativity in a way that also promotes reading, Luebke said.

“From what I saw last year, 60 percent of the books where children’s books,” she said. “It is really cool to see the families come together and create something like this.”

The contests will be judged by individuals from the library, art and design and English departments. There is no cost to enter a piece. Entries may be submitted until 3:00 p.m. on April 1.

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