Edible Book Festival, Books one can Eat

Parents tell kids to not play with their food, but at the Topeka Shawnee County Library they can, participants and viewers came to the Edible Book Festival, April 4.

Each participant arranged food to represent a book by its cover or title. Three rules for entries were: no entry bigger than 3-by-3 feet, have the book with the arrangement and make the item mostly out of food. This festival has been an annual event for eight years and anyone can enter an edible book.

The library’s special collector and art librarian Brea Black got the idea to start the edible book festival from the Internet. The first time was mainly among staff, but as the years went by the event gained more participants and viewers.

Black says the purpose was for people to see books in a different way, with the hope that it would encourage them to read. Not only would viewers see books differently but they are also able to participate in crafts.

“I thought it would be a really fun activity,” said Black.

Each year is different due to the books chosen and the idea is that entrants have to create their edible book. Food items used come from any food category: vegetables, fruit, grain and meat. People have made pancakes, cakes, cupcakes, a waffle tower, items made out of candy, fruit and more.

“That’s what I look forward to, seeing what everyone comes up with,” said Black.

Some popular books included in this year’s event were “The Wizard of Oz,” that had a house made of sugar waffles and crackers with a tornado made of cotton candy, “The Ginger Bread Man” and Dr. Seuss’ “Butter Battle Book.” In the Dr. Seuss book, the participant took the title literally by making a wall of crackers and putting sliced bread with butter on both sides. Someone even brought in a block of ice for “March of the Penguins.”

Viewers voted on the edible books in three categories: best in show, most likely to be devoured and best play on words.

One participant, Robin Burke, has been making edible books for the festival for seven years. Burke says it’s something she enjoys doing.

“I like to play with food, to make things beautiful, to please people because it makes people happy,” said Burke.

Burke made a chocolate heart with icing and had little chocolate Hershey bars and Kisses surrounding the heart. The arrangement followed the “Chocolate Heart” book. Her piece won “mostly likely to be devoured.”

Burke’s favorite part of the event was watching people’s reactions to the creativity and interpretation of books.

“I find that to be quite delightful and humorous,” said Burke.

She likes seeing the surprise and joy on people’s faces.

Fruit and vegetables were served at the event to satisfy food cravings after walking by the edible books.

At the end of the row of edible books was a chef carving cantaloupes and watermelons to appear like flowers. Chef Mike has been coming to the event for four years. Viewers watched him carve a cantaloupe into a flower then do a different flower design on a watermelon.

Another book festival participant, Gwendolyn Hughes, made a watermelon grill with picnic food items. Her book was the “BBQ Queens’ Big Book Barbecue.” Hughes chose this book because she does pageants and likes barbecues.

This was Hughes’ third year of participating. Her piece won first runner-up.

“I like seeing the other entries because they’re creative and neat,” said Hughes.