Last Friday, Goldfarb Library hosted its third annual Edible Book Festival, in which students and faculty from the Brandeis community were invited to combine cooking ingredients with words in order to create their own edible bestsellers. 

The International Edible Book Festival, the inspiration for the Brandeis festival, started in 2000. Libraries around the world use this occasion to commemorate the birthday of Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, a founder of the gastronomic essay genre and writer of the witty food book “Physiologie du Gout.” 

Brillat-Savarin’s birth date on April Fool’s Day suits the fun nature of the festival, as food and words come together in a creative and yummy manner.

“People have a lot of fun with it. It gets you thinking about books in different ways,” said Melanie Radik, the coordinator of the festival and academic outreach librarian for the sciences. The row of cakes and other food arrangements on display revealed each creator’s unique twists and creativity on all genres of books. 

One of this year’s winning entries was an elaborate green Mad Hatter cake structure titled “It’s Always Tea Time!” gaining inspiration from Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” The cake not only included shortbread playing cards but was also filled with egg candies at its center to add an extra flare in both taste and literary humor.

Book title puns also seemed to be a favorite option among bakers. “The ‘Wonderbread’ Boys” and “The Life of Pie” were two on display. Another winning entry used the book “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”  as inspiration, naming the entry itself “The Legend of Sleepy Challah.” 

The food art was of a loaf of challah wrapped in a blanket paired with a “zzz” thought bubble. 

While there are some common themes of decorating a cake like a book cover or using a pun from the title, Radik reflected on how one of her favorite parts about the contest is that  “there’s a really good variety in the types of food people use and the inspiration from the books that are chosen.”

One of the most memorable cakes Radik had seen since starting the festival was based on Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis.” “They shaped it like a giant cockroach and put in really great details, like a chocolate ganache shell so that it crunched when you cut into it, and then the lemon filling oozed out.”

Before the forks hit the books, there were three judges who voted on funniest/punniest, best visual presentation and most creative use of ingredients. 

There was also a best-in-show popular vote. One suggestion offered by attendees for next year’s festival was to add taste as a category as well. 

While she felt it was an interesting thought, Radik expressed how the need to make it delicious could complicate the creativity. “Sometimes, the puns result in a really odd flavor combination or ingredients used. If we add flavor as a dimension, I’m not sure how it would go,” she laughed.

To be a part of the global celebration for next year, bakers must register with an online form that is released a few weeks before the festival. All students are welcome to participate. 

As for those who want to observe and taste the masterpieces, they only need to show up.