If you are what you eat, can you also eat what you read?
The Florence-Lauderdale Public Library tackles this deliciously literary question with its second annual Edible Books Festival, today through Tuesday.
The local display of bookish food (meant to be viewed instead of eaten) is part of the 12-year-old grassroots International Edible Books Festival, which started in France when two friends decided to honor gastronome and author Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826) on his April 1 birthday.
And the fact that April 1 is April Fool’s Day simply is icing on the cake.
“This event is celebrated around the world by many libraries as well as simply for fun among friends and family,” said Abby Carpenter, adult-services manager at the library. “When viewing this unique display of culinary beauty, observers can expect a showcase of food that either looks like a book or represents a theme or character of a book.”
Local participants include Abram’s Bakery, Bookmarks Coffee Shop, Sugar on Top, Yummies Bakery & Deli, Amy’s Cakes and Rivertown Coffee Co. Included in this year’s food creations are the whimsical world of Dr. Seuss, Ann McGovern’s “Too Much Noise,” Laura Joffe Numeroff’s “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” and Suzanne Collins’ best-selling “The Hunger Games” trilogy.
Sugar on Top will create a cake to portray “The Rainbow Fish,” by Marcus Pfister, and culinary artist Maggie Bea Ray will bring food items to represent Kathryn Stockett’s award-winning novel “The Help.”
“When restaurants and bakeries are approached to participate in this event, they all immediately become interested in the concept,” Carpenter said. “A lot of them are thrilled at the idea of combining books and food, two favorite pastimes for many of us. The challenge for these culinary artists then becomes coming up with ideas for themes and how to implement them. The places we asked to participate came up with their own books. Luckily, we have a lot of creative people around this area who chose a wide range of titles and authors.”
One of those creative food designers is Dawn Fry, owner of Yummies in Tuscumbia.
“We love to be involved in community events and this is right up our alley,” Fry said. “It’s not uncommon for someone to want a cake decorated like a favorite book, so we have had experience on that part. We decided that our cake would be decorated after ‘The Hunger Games,’ because it’s the latest book people have gone wild over. ‘Twilight’ (named after the popular vampire novels) was a popular cake and cupcake request for us and I expect ‘Hunger Games’ to be, also.”
The library’s first Edible Books Festival in 2010 featured a “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” cake created by the advanced culinary class at Florence High School, a Cinderella cake by Sugar on Top and Peter Pan cupcakes by Sweet Magnolia Cafe.
“Children were especially delighted to spend time gazing at the edible sculptures before them,” Carpenter said. “Of course, everyone who passed by wanted to reach out and touch the colorful sugar figures of Willa Wonka’s factory or Cinderella’s glittery shoe. Adults also stood around examining the detail of each book represented, smiling with fond memories of some of these classic childhood stories.”
Several examples of edible books from across the country already are appearing on the festival’s Facebook page — Books2eat: International Edible Books Festival — where anyone can post photos and comments about festival creations and get inspiration for their own designs.
Organizers see the festival as a blend of art, food and books, with a heaping tablespoon of fun.
“Maybe it will get people interested in opening up some books and get them to turn off the TV,” Fry said.”
Cathy Wood is a freelance writer working in the Shoals.
Want to go?
What: Edible Books Festival
Where: Florence-Lauderdale Public Library, 350 N. Wood Ave., Florence
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and Saturday, 1-5 p.m. Sunday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday and Tuesday
Details: 256-764-6564, ext. 27 or 28 and books2eat.com