Literature and cuisine collide at the 2014 Edible Book Festival


Photo Credit: Katerina Sarandou

On Tuesday, April 1, students and faculty gathered in the lobby of the Jenny King Mellon Library to participate in Chatham University’s third annual International Edible Book Festival.  This unique collision of literature and cuisine, sponsored by the JKM Library, and the Chatham Food Studies Program, began at 4 p.m. with a viewing period during which students and staff browsed the various entries, and voted on their favorites.

The contenders encompassed a broad range of literary genres, from Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” to J.K Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series–with cakes, pies, cupcakes, and even devilled eggs taking up every inch of space on the tables that spanned the length of the lobby.

One particularly large display of cupcakes was based on a variety of Dr. Seuss books. This entree, created by first years Tiffany Waltenbaugh, Tess Scibilia, and Lorraine Yanjtovich, was beautifully constructed with a wide variety of material representing “Horton Hears a Who”, “Green Eggs and Ham”, “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish”, “The Lorax”, and “The Cat in the Hat”.

Photo Credit: Katerina Sarandou
Photo Credit: Katerina Sarandou

Waltenbaugh explained that after seeing the flyer in the elevator, they “thought it would be fun.” They then separated the work, with each person creating food for two books, which took “approximately three hours each, spread over several days.”

Regarding their choice of books, Yanjtovich explained that Dr. Seuss, to them, is an inspiration, because “all of his quotes and books have a message”. They also explained that their first thought upon hearing about an Edible Book Festival was “kids”, which made them think of Dr. Seuss.

At 4:30 p.m., the ever-popular book tasting portion of the event began, and the approximately 30 people in attendance were encouraged to grab a plate and dig in to the various edible literary works. Regarding her reasons for coming, Elizabeth Van Fleet, a student in attendance, explained that despite not being able to actually participate like she did last year–due to lack of time–she still “wanted to come, because last year it was amazing.” In her opinion, events like this “increase community connectedness. They get students talking to each other [and] people get to be creative and enjoy a fun event.”

As the event continued, people all around the lobby could be heard discussing the high quality of all of the entrees, and the amount of crumbs covering the green table-cloths indicated people’s satisfaction with the food.

Around 5:00 p.m. the judging began, with areas of focus ranging from Best Creative Literary Interpretation, to Most Creative Ingredients, and Most Sustainable. Within 15 minutes the judges were prepared to present the prizes, and the people in attendance gathered eagerly to hear the results.

Photo Credit: Katerina Sarandou
Photo Credit: Katerina Sarandou

After intense deliberation, the Grand Prize was awarded to graduate student Amy Lee Heinlen, for her pies modeled after “A Separate Peace”.  Her display was a visual pun involving two vegan cherry pies, both in the shape of peace signs, with the smaller of the two sitting apart from the main one.

Heinlen said later that she was completely surprised by her win.  She said that she “was happy to participate”, and that “the prizes [were] lovely.” In regards to one of her prizes, a vegetarian cookbook, she said that she is “looking forward to making some new recipes.”