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Edible Books

May 13, 2010 at 2:05 pm
By Margaret Taylor '10

I promise, I promise, I will not make a pun about devouring a good book here.  Or eating one’s words.  Last Sunday, there was an edible book festival and contest in the Concert Hall lobby.  There, I said it straight.

The festival was organized by Heather Stevick ’10, who got the idea from a book arts seminar class she took last term.  She was helped out by Kailyn Kent ’11, a fellow cooking enthusiast, and Laurel Bradley, Carleton’s director of art exhibitions.  Edible books explore a unique aspect of book arts because they’re so much more ephemeral than what we usually think of as reading material.  The idea of an edible book festival is not as outlandish as it seems.  Cooks and libraries around the world have been taking place in the International Edible Book Festival since 2000.  Traditionally, the festivals happen on or around April 1, the birthday of French epicure Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin.

Kailyn entered a work called “Summer Fluff Reading,” which was like an open-faced s’more.  A bed of graham crackers and chocolate make up a cover; spread on top of those were marshmallow crème pages with sprinkle lines of text.  “I discovered that marshmallow fluff, when left to its own devices, seeks equilibrium,” says Kailyn.  Heather, well, went all out.  She entered four things in the festival.  These included sponge cake scrolls, candy codexes, and tablets made out of tablet (tablet is a Scottish confection somewhat like blond fudge).  To make the text for her dishes, she piped frosting words backwards onto parchment paper, froze them, then transferred them to the dishes.  At the last minute, she also baked a cake.  Heather estimates that all together, baking for the festival took her about 20 hours of work.

The other entries include:

  • “Crackers of Chance” by Sam Demas, the college librarian
  • “Booklava” (the puns!) and “Chronicles” by Kelly Mayo ‘11
  • A cake-sized model of Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree,” brought in by Bon Appetit
  • “Chew on this Book” by Amy Graves and “Stringing Me Along” by Mallory, both artists from the Twin Cities.

All of the books were free for the public to taste.  For a balanced approach to the judging, the organizers brought in one judge with book expertise, and another with culinary expertise.  On the book side was Kristi Wermager, curator of special collections in the library.  The cooking judge was Elizabeth Schott, who operated a store called “Treats” in downtown Northfield for many years.  Although there were enough judging categories for every entrant to win an honor, two categories came with $25 gift cards to the Carleton bookstore: Eye Candy and Taster’s Choice.  After deliberation, “Candy Codex” won in the Eye Candy category and “Booklava” won Taster’s Choice.


For more information on edible books, check out