Friday, May 10, 2013

Edible Books: An Extraordinary Journey of Bravery, Endurance, and Jell-O

The Endurance in Jell-O, meringue, marzipan, celery, rice paper, and chocolate.

 The following is a guest post from my mother, Joan. My parents have a long history of diorama-making and Jell-O sculpting, but a few weeks ago they really outdid themselves. I'll let her tell the story, and I'll only add that there are few things more fabulous than calling up your folks on a routine Saturday to hear that they are deep in rigging a ship with spaghetti and celery threads. My parents are now heroes in my office, and we all have ideas for their next act. (Did I mention I work in the Youth and Family Services Office of a large library system?)

Our first entry in our local library’s seventh annual Edible Book contest was a lot of fun. The object of the event is to represent a book or literary genre with a 100% edible creation. This event is not unique to our library. Here is the blurb from the library’s website:

“The Edible Book Event began in 1999, when co-founder Judith Holmberg, of Santa Monica, California, got the idea during a Thanksgiving dinner with book artists. Since that time it has grown and become an international event. The festival honors French gastronome Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826), famous for his book, The Physiology of Taste, a witty meditation on food. His birth date is April 1st. He wrote:
The discovery of a new dish confers more happiness on humanity than the discovery of a new star.
Since 1999, Edible Book events have been held in places as far-flung as Australia, Brazil, Canada, England, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, Morocco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, and Russia. In most cities where Edible Book events are held, the sponsors are art centers, academic institutions, restaurants, and book arts spaces. Northampton was one of the first places where a LIBRARY hosted the event!”
*The original edible book event website is:

We decided to merge two of Stan’s favorite things – the story of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s amazing “Endurance” expedition in Antartica, and Jell-O. Spurred on by expedition chronicler Frank Hurley’s extraordinary photographs, we threw ourselves into our project. We had several days to test the properties of jello and meringue and learn how they coexisted. Lots of science experiments balancing heat and cold and timing.
 We were late to this game, only deciding to participate a week prior to event, so we had to source our ‘extras’ locally. Apparently, one can buy everything in gummi form online, but we were lucky to snag some gummi penguins in the downtown candy store.

Tiny people were challenging. Joan wanted to omit them altogether but Stan insisted that the story was one of human survival and they were important, thus the marzipan weirdly trollish forms.(Katya's note: I came down on my mother's side of this one--the people could have been still inside the boat. When she despairingly described her efforts as looking like 'gingerbread men sitting down,' I sympathized, but our resident Shackleton expert had the final say.)

The shipwreck was Joan’s favorite part, using celery strings to tie the spaghetti masts and rice paper sail onto the carved chocolate hull.

Most fun of all? Watching the kids eat the books at the end of the contest.
Here are some of our favorite other fabulous entries.
Blueberries for Sal! Chocolate cake with rich fudge frosting.
Four and Twenty Blackbirds. No word on what kind of pie it is.
And, for the aaarghh factor, a Catcher in the Rye.
Note the yellow bit on the side, which is a part of the striped cover
of the Little, Brown paperback edition.
(Katya's note: This whole adventure was extremely inspiring to me, and I am hoping to make many future cakes based on my favourite books. Most of my favourite books spell 'favourite' that it any wonder I spell British? Taking all requests for children's book themed party favours.)


Anonymous said...

Wow--what an amazing piece of art! Of all the projects featured in Joan's post, theirs was my favo(u)rite! xxx

Alpha Baker Joan said...

I like the 4 and 20 blackbirds...
Joan ; )