(All Images Courtesy of Duke University Edible Book Festival.)
These are tough times for libraries. Media reports every day tell of city, county, and state governments cutting library budgets in the face of massive revenue shortfalls. But the beginning of the month of April brings the worst news yet. Not just in the US but worldwide, libraries around the globe will literally be slicing up their books to raise money. Those who care about their collections must rally before their rarest delicacies are consumed, and lost forever in the bowels of money hungry citizens. Bibliophiles everywhere must either start cooking with gas or risk seeing their favorite tomes swallowed up.
As you digest this bitter pill, don't forget one choice tidbit: this Thursday is the anniversary of the date upon which Geoffrey Chaucer's famous tale of two fools, The Nun's Priest's Tale, begins. This chapter of The Canterbury Tales commences: "Syn March bigan thritty dayes and two," which readers took to mean "April 1." Jokers know this fruity date as April Fool's Day, but it's equally kosher to call it International Edible Books Day. And as Sir Francis Bacon (whose very name conjures up a meaty image) once remarked: "Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and the other few to be chewed and digested." So why not celebrate the first day of the fourth month of the year by nibbling before the tomes burn?
International Edible Book Festival is held annually on or about April 1st. Schools, libraries, art galleries, and civic organizations around the globe hold contests and award prizes for the most creative cookery commemorating codices. Many of the competitions are charitable events, with entries auctioned off to the highest bidder. (Perhaps this year these cash cows can be milked to beef up the budgets of starving libraries.) The holiday itself was cooked-up by two women, Judith A. Hoffberg and Beatrice Coron, to publicize and honor the work of book artists. The day's official website, http://www.books2eat.com/Books2eat/books2eat.html, offers links to parties partaking in the feast worldwide, as well a menu of past repasts, and recipes for whipping up a tasteful celebration. It notes that a smorgasbord of nations from Chile to Greece to Turkey are previous participants.
The website also mentions another ingredient that flavors the festivities: April 1 is the birthday of French epicure and gastronome Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, (1755-1826) the father of food writing. His eight volume Physiologie du Gout, ou Meditations de Gastronomie Transcendante; ouvrage theorique, historique et a l'ordre du jour, dedie aux Gastronomes parisiens, par un Professeur, membre de plusieurs societes litteraires et savantes (The Physiology of Taste, or, Meditations of transcendent gastronomy; a theoretical, historical and topical work, dedicated to the gastronomes of Paris by a professor, member of several literary and scholarly societies) was published anonymously in 1825, and has been a staple of foodies ever since. Upper crust Parisians, and the creme de la creme of high society worldwide, gobbled up the tome and made Brillat-Savarin the apple of their eyes. For the last year of the author's life, this work was his bread and butter.
cordon bleu entries. Try googling "edible books" to get your fill of the sweetest samples. And if you can stomach it, be sure to partake of the zesty zingers that spice up the bulk of the entries. Yes there are puns aplenty on the menu--20,000 Leeks Under The Sea, anyone? No? You want something fresher? How about The Red Cabbage Of Courage? Or perhaps a classic like Great Eggplantations is more to your taste? Okay, I'll cut this short. Wouldn't want you to bust a gut laughing and risk losing your lunch.