Edible Book Festival celebrates literature, food and puns

by Amelia Rosch | 4/13/15 5:47pm

Inspiration for the second annual Edible Book Festival came from a range of books.
by Eliza McDonough and Eliza McDonough / The Dartmouth

“The House of Seven Bagels.” “The Dartmouth Alumni Marzipan.” “The Road to Tiramisu.” These titles were among several literary-themed puns that inspired desserts, including cakes, bagels and a collection of brownie crumbs, on display in Baker-Berry Library yesterday. This showcase of literary arts meeting the culinary arts celebrated one of the library’s newest traditions — the second annual Dartmouth College Library Edible Book Festival.

The winners of the festival were not available by press time.

Education and outreach librarian and chair of the library’s marketing and communications committee Andrea Bartelstein, who oversaw this year’s festival, said that the library decided to start holding the Edible Book Festival as a celebration of warmer weather and sunnier days that come after a long winter.

“We did it just for fun, to do something fun in the spring,” she said. “We wanted to celebrate that finally, we’re in the spring, just to get people into the library.”

Bartelstein said that anyone in the wider Hanover community, along with students, staff and faculty, is welcome to participate in the event. She said that the only requirements for entries to the are that they be at least 75 percent edible and inspired by a book, author or character. She said that participants must also choose whether or not they want their submission eaten at the end of the festival.

“They can really do anything,” she said. “Puns are very popular.”

Graduate student in the MALS program Sara Decker, who is studying literature and literary theory, submitted an edible creation — inspired by Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time” — that included a pair of briefs and a clock made out of Rice Krispies Treats. Decker said she came up with the idea with help from her wife.

“We’re both kind of punny,” Decker said. “Jen picked out the book, and we decided to do a pun on it, and this is the thing we came up with.”

Decker said that she and her wife began with the concept of incorporating briefs into their design and from there decided to add a clock to represent time and history. She said that she ultimately had to change the design because of logistical issues involving the briefs.

“The original idea was to lay out the clock, because it’s kind of melting right now and the Rice Krispies are kind of collapsing,” Decker said. “But the briefs were too big, so we smushed it together.”

She said that the biggest challenge of working on her piece was the materials they used. She said that she assumed working with Rice Krispie Treats would be easy, but the material’s inherent stickiness led to unexpected problems.

“As soon as I got hold of the Rice Krispies to try to form it, my hands would stick together and I couldn’t help but crush the Rice Krispies,” she said. “It was very messy, Rice Krispies everywhere, marshmallow goo everywhere.”

The task of building a book that was both edible and stable enough to maintain its shape was not the only challenge that the festival faced. Bartelstein said that it was difficult for the library to spread the word about the event. She said that the library placed ads in the Dartmouth Dining Services facilities and around town, as well as advertising the event on the library’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

Information access assistant at the Dana Biomedical Library Katie DeFord, who also volunteered for the festival, said that she was in charge of live tweeting the event in order to boost its publicity.

Bartelstein said that the timing of the festival, which was determined by the spring interim period, made it more challenging to effectively advertise the event.

“People are on break, and we don’t want to tell them before break because they’re focused on finals, and then, you know, they’re focused on school again,” she said.

Bartelstein said that while the turnout was on the lower side, she enjoyed the festival’s entries. She said that her two favorite pieces were “Dartmouth Alumni Marzipan,” and “Gone with the Wind,” which was made of an empty plate with some crumbs left on it.

“It’s always hard to choose a favorite because there are really good ones,” Bartelstein said. “This year, there’s some really cute, really clever ones.”

DeFord said that her favorite piece this year was “The House of Seven Bagels” because of its cleverness and wittiness.

Last year’s winners included “Green Eggs and Hamlet” in the funniest or punniest category, “Booklava” for most the creative and “Rainbow Fish” for people’s choice.

The International Edible Books Festival was created in 1999 by Judith Hoffberg and Beatrice Coron, and the first festival was held in 2000. It celebrates the birthday of French food writer Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin and is currently celebrated in at least 20 different countries each April.

Bartelstein said that she hopes that people will enjoy the festival enough to allow the library to hold it again.

DeFord said that she plans to continue working with the festival.

“I want to keep working with this,” she said. “This is a great event. It’s been a ton of fun. I think it’s great to see people’s creativity out there.”