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Defender Picks


Edible Book Fest Brings Clever Cakes

by Devin Bambrick

On Saturday, bookish New Orleanians will converge at the Alvar Library to tout their esculent editions, their comestible compendia, and their toothsome tomes at the Edible Book Festival.


Listing New Orleans's food festivals is a bit like Bubba Blue listing preparations for shrimp. There's the Creole Tomato Festival, the Oyster Festival, the Road Food Festival, the Po-Boy Festival, and the Seafood Festival. And while you'll spot plenty of folding chairs, questionable tans, and battle-scarred coozies at these weekend blowouts, books are usually in short supply. But at the Edible Book Festival, a coterie of clever bibliophiles is combining the culinary and the literary with a competition to represent beloved books in edible media.


The Edible Book Festival is an international phenomenon that occurs annually on or around April 1st, giving lonely literature majors one day a year to exhaust their catalog of esoteric jokes constructed in the quiet moments between pulling impeccable espresso shots for the cattle that keep rousing them from their Bolano reading.


Established in 2000, the playful Edible Book Day events require participants to think about the intersection of the cerebral and the gustatory with entries that rely on creativity, craftsmanship, and some truly groan-worthy puns. Last year's festival included entries called "Infinite Zest," "Love in the Thyme of Cauliflower," and "Heart of Carcass," a meat-based entry surreptitiously slipped in by the jokers and smokers at Bywater barbeque haven The Joint.


The New Orleans iteration of the festival is organized by SIFT, or "sequence. image. form. text." The arts organization focuses on the book arts and aims to "facilitate exploration and dialogue of interdisciplinary arts." In other words, a lot of SIFT's events take place in the Bywater.


"I learned about the Edible Book Festival when I lived in Seattle, where they've held their hugely popular event for seven or eight years," says SIFT member and Edible Book organizer Yuka Petz. "After we founded SIFT, we thought the event fit perfectly with our programming mission. Food, literature, and art are all such significant parts of New Orleans culture, and we were surprised that nobody else was already doing it."


The festival's awards process is split into four categories. Novel Eats is awarded to the "most inspired use of literature or a literary reference." Cooked Book goes to "best use or exploration of a book-like structure." Upper Crust goes to the best in show among adult entries, and Bound For Greatness goes to best submission by an entrant 12 or under.


And while judging is community-based, if you want to curry favor with the organizers you'd do well to take a page out of book-making history: "I would love to see an edible book version of some of those big players in book and print history," says Petz, "like Gutenburg's 42-line bible, the Kelmscott Bible, or one of the Nag Hammadi Codices."


If that sounds too theoretical, though, don't fret. The important thing, Petz stresses is to have fun: " Pick a favorite book or literary character to riff off of. Puns are always popular, but edible books don't have to be directly related to any existing work of literature. You can just as successfully create an amazing edible book by walking around the grocery and checking out how you might turn different ingredients into book covers, pages, text, and more. The key is to have some bookish element and simply make it out of all edible materials."


If you should still require suggestions, though, you might consider A Supposedly Pho Thing I'll Never Do Again or Blood Orange Meridian or The Organic Verses.


And yes: Life of Pie, Grapes of Wrath, and Naked Lunch are all way too obvious.


The Edible Book Festival is an all-ages event and takes place at the Alvar Library at 913 Alvar Street in the Bywater, from 1:00pm to 4:00pm, this Saturday April 6th. Consider bringing a canned food item for Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans. Just don't bring a Kindle.


More information at the fest's website.

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