Founded in 2000 to celebrate the life of French gastronome Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, the International Edible Books Festival is held every year around the world on April 1st. Festival participants create cooked dishes and baked goods designed to look like books, share these images online, and then dine on them.
According to the official website, there are only three rules for participation:
1. The event must be held on April 1st (or close to that date).
2. All edible books must be "bookish" through the integration of text, literary inspiration or, quite simply, the form.
3. Organizations or individual participants must register with the festival’s organization and share images on the international festival website (www.books2eat.com).
The sheer range of style in the entries is impressive. Some participants design pastries to look like books; others use a normal cake base, but illuminate a passage, or draw a picture from a favorite book in frosting. Still others use EBF as an opportunity to sculpt flour, eggs, and sugar. The best creations, however, tend to be culinary slapstick efforts that rely heavily on puns.
At some sites, there is voting to determine favorite entries. In 2012, festival winners selected at the University of Texas in Austin included "Tart of Darkness" and "War and Piece of Cake."
Other fantastically horrible EBF puns have included "Cavity's Rainbow" (Skittles organized by color in a glass case) and an empty blender next to a mint-flavored drink ("The Last of the Mojitos").
Every local festival seems to have its own categories for evaluation of the dishes – from Best in Show to Punniest to Best Depiction of a Book/TV series ("Game of Scones"). But the highlight at most festivals occurs after the awards are handed out when participants get to eat their creations.
Francis Bacon got it right when he said, "Some books are to be tasted, others swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested."
Ben Frederick is a Monitor contributor.