Play With Your Food at ‘Edible Book Fest’

Annual Duke Libraries event returns April 1

pearl onion_V_0.jpg
The "Girl with a Pearl Onion' was among recent entries in previous Edible Book Festivals. All Duke community members can join the event by participating or voting on April 1. Photo courtesy of Duke Libraries.

On April 1, the Libraries' Preservation and Conservation departments will host their annual "Edible Book Festival," a yearly tradition that brings together Duke community members to celebrate literacy history in the most delicious way possible - with food. The event is part of the broader International Edible Book Festival, which has been held on April Fool's Day since 1999.

All students, faculty and staff are welcome to participate, attend and can vote to determine champions in categories like most and least edible, "punniest," and best in show. This year's festival is from 2 to 3:30 p.m. in Perkins 217.

Entries at the festival are created with edible materials to highlight book names or aspects of a novel or story. A silent auction during the event allows the chance for visitors to take each entry home to eat.

"I particularly like ones that are puns," said Beth Doyle, the Leona B. Carpenter Senior Conservator at Duke Libraries. "One of my favorites was 'Girl with a Pearl Onion,' which was based on Girl With a Pearl Earring."

Paula Jeannet Mangiafico was a first-time participant in last year's Edible Book Festival, but came away as the winner of "most edible" entry with her creation, "The Canter-berry Tales," which played off The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer.

Mangiafico's entry showed cutouts of Chaucer's Canterbury pilgrims riding horses over a chocolate cake shaped like an open book with vanilla frosting and blueberries and strawberries on top. She even created a pathway on the cake using raw sugar and bridges with Twizzlers.

"I'm a medievalist by training and very familiar with Canterbury Tales, and I liked making that connection with fruit," said Mangiafico, visual materials processing archivist with the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library. "I think people who did well last year used lots of color and found ways to be imaginative with their work."

Amy Turner, a cataloger with Cataloging and Metadata Services, has participated in the Edible Book Fest six times since 2008. Some of her past entries have included "War in Peas" (War and Peace) and "In Defense of Food," the same title as the real Michael Pollan book.

"This developed into a cake fortified with ears of baby corn, being defended by plastic Indians against the onslaught of plastic soldiers," Turner said. "Some of the soldiers were mounted on Twinkies, and carried banners with fast food logos, representing the attack of the Western diet on more traditional ways of eating."

Both Turner and Mangiafico said successful entries find a mix between humor and eye-catching quality. Doyle, meanwhile, noted that use of an unexpected or unqiue ingredient can help create a winning dish.

"Things that make people laugh tend to do really well with voting," Doyle said. "But you almost have to do that if you enter this contest because we don’t take this too seriously. It's a fun day to play with your foood."