Students create edible books
At the forefront of the Alexander Library atrium yesterday, a bunch of giant, angry grapes made with cake, fondant, Kool-Aid, and other ingredients, stared at curious onlookers. Melody Tomaszewicz made the creation — an edible interpretation of John Steinbeck’s, “The Grapes of Wrath.”
The University Libraries hosted its first annual, “Cook the Books: An Edible Book Festival” yesterday in the lower level of the Alexander Library. Faculty, staff, students, alumni, as well as New Jersey residents were invited to enter works of literature as food.
“It’s hard to describe what an edible book is,” said Megan Lotts, the event coordinator. “For me, an edible book can be anything you want it to be. Anything goes in this festival, and that’s what’s exciting about it.”
Harry Glazer, the library communications director, said the entries should represent a books title, either verbatim or in parody or pun, through an interesting arrangement of food.
The books were judged in five categories, which were punniest, best book structure, most edible, least edible and public choice, he said.
Artists Judith Hoffberg and Béatrice Coron started the international festival in 2003, he said. The artists were inspired by French gastronome, Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin who was famous for his book “Physiologie du gout,” a witty meditation on food.
“Cleverness is the most important aspect for me,” said Lotts, an art librarian at the University. “Some people will take form very seriously, and create something intricate and delicate. It’s all about the time and effort you want to put in.”
Lotts said this is her third time hosting an edible book festival, and she was pleased to bring the event to Rutgers. The festival provokes interest in novels, and it encourages people to read one of the books on display.
She said the event brings the staples of literature and food together as celebration of the consumption of culture.
“To me, the most important aspect was the actual edible book,” said Jeremy Pierson, chef manager at the Rutgers Club. “The fact that many had turning pages was amazing.”
The libraries chose the festival judges to bring different perspectives, Lotts said. They were Pierson, Tom Izbicki, head of collection development at the libraries, and Suzanne Delehanty, director of the Zimmerli Arts Museum.
Pierson said creating an edible book gets people involved on a deeper level with the literature, and the stories came out through each book.
Rachel Craver, a Mason Gross School of the Arts senior, said she was part of an Advanced Printmaking class that needed to participate in the event as an assignment.
“My book was more about the presentation, and the connection between what the book is, and what the book is about, and the whole imagery of it,” Craver said.
Her edible book, a take on “Naked Lunch,” featured one sandwich with the title written in seeds and ketchup, and another sandwich with a cutout of a naked person, she said. In addition, she had some of her clothes on display next to the food, as though someone had disrobed.
There were a total of 10 winners, Lotts said. Second place winners received a University mug, and first place winners received a Subway gift card. Barnes and Noble donated a Nook e-reader to the best in show.
First place in punniest went to “Fanta of the Opera.” Pierson said. “Prairie Springs,” which won first place for best book structure, was his personal favorite for the form and intricate detail.
Craver’s “Naked Lunch” won second place in least edible, while first place went to “Splenda in the Grass.” “Game of Scones” was named the most edible, Lotts said, followed by “Charlottes Web.”
Best in show went to “The Grapes of Wrath,” Lotts said. Other pieces included “The Girl with the Dragon-fruit Tattoo,” “Ketchup in the Rice, ft. Moulden Cauliflower,” as well as “The Bible.”
“I hope this is a catalyst to get people excited to be in the library,” Lotss said, “and to remind people that we’re not just a place to get books, we do a lot of cool stuff in the library.”