Eat any good books lately?

By Bonnie Stiernberg

It’s not too often you get the opportunity to literally eat your words, but this afternoon at the University YMCA, you can.

At today’s Edible Book Festival, sponsored by the University’s Main Library, participants can sample creations inspired by their favorite books.

The entries at this year’s festival will be judged in several categories, and the winners will receive traditional, inedible books as a prize.

“The entries can be in the form of books but made entirely of edible materials,” said Sue Searing, head of the Library and Information Science Library. “For past festivals, people have created books with pages made of tortillas, rice wrappers, lettuce leaves, toast and graham crackers, or they can be food that portrays the theme of a particular book or story.”

The brainchild of librarian Judith Hoffberg, the Edible Book Festival is an international event. Every year around April 1, book enthusiasts across the globe hold their own festivals. Hoffberg said that she got the idea for the festival during a Thanksgiving dinner back in 1999.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

“Three book artists and I were discussing dessert and then how books and art and food could come together, and I said, ‘How about edible books? How about an event where people come together, bringing some books that have been made from food and they have a kind of tea?'” she said. “Then thinking about it, it seemed to be a perfect event for April Fools’ Day when people take humor and use it all day, have fun and enjoy the jokes.”

Humor certainly plays a significant role in the festival. Past Champaign-Urbana entries have included puns like “The Rosetta Scone,” “Twelve Angry Gingerbread Men” and “The Decameron of Foccacia.”

Jennifer Hain Teper, a conservation librarian who will be judging this year’s festival, said five prizes will be given out: Top Honors-Culinary, Top Honors-Literary, Top Honors-Artistic, Best Depiction of the “Meet Your Hero at the Library” theme, and People’s Choice.

“Some of them are going to taste better than others, so there is one (category) that obviously has a culinary appeal to it, tying together foods that will go well together and still adhere to the theme of an edible book,” Teper explained. “Then there will be ones that may not necessarily taste so good but really use food creatively, and so those will be more geared toward the artistic or literary themes.”

The winner of last year’s artistic honors, graduate student Karen Hewitt, created an A-to-Z alphabet book.

The book was made from sheets of rice paper that encased portions of food beginning with each letter of the alphabet. Each page was lettered using a paste of soy sauce and flour.

“I came up with that idea because my primary interest was in making a book from edible materials, rather than something edible that mimicked a book or a cover,” Hewitt said. “It was really hard to figure out a narrative plot line that was representational as opposed to written, so an alphabet book was almost an obvious choice.”

Entries to the festival will be collected between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. All entries will be photographed, and then the event will be opened to public viewing beginning at 11:30 a.m. From 12:15 to 12:45, there will be a presentation on the worldwide event, and awards will be given out. At 12:45, people will have the opportunity to taste the edible books.

“I’m looking forward to some wonderful examples of creativity,” Searing said.

Teper said she can’t wait to see this year’s entries.

“It’s always fun to see what people do,” she said. “There’s some really creative entries, and it’s always fun to see what people come up with. Everybody’s been very tight-lipped about what they’re putting in this year, so I have no idea what to expect, and that’s part of the fun of it. I’m sure there’ll be some good tongue-in-cheek literary puns, and that’s always fun.”