Chomping at the Bits

A cavalcade of tastes collided at the Third Annual Edible Book Festival held at Santa Barbara City College’s Luria Library.

The Edible Book Festival is an international event that celebrates Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, the father of modern gastronomy and famed French author of Physiologie du gout.

The event was founded in 2000 by Béatrice Coron and Judith Hoffberg, an art librarian and curator whose collection of books resides, in part, at UCSB.

The competition at City College was born a grassroots effort. “The festival is a celebration of culture, food, books and creativity,” librarian Elizabeth Bowman told Channels Newspaper. “The purpose is to get people interested in books, to bring people into the library, and to just have some fun.”

Fun and frenzy laced this year’s competition, with poor weather, last-minute arrivals, and a dental condition afflicting one of the judges stampeding their way through Bowman’s office.

“We have somebody who was making a sugar sculpture and it fell apart because the humidity is terrible,” Bowman recounted after a series of visitors calmed to a trickle. “One woman has been here with her cake for four hours. I hope she had lunch.”

“In the first year, no one knew what to expect…now they know and the expectations are high,” Bowman recounted. “Last year we forgot the plates and forks…this year we’re a little bit more organized. It’s still seat of the pants because it’s just fun,” she chuckled. “[But] it’s still a very low key, fun, encouraging, no pressure event.”

Then, suddenly: “Oh, Catch-22 just had a little accident,” Bowman charged exasperatedly, sweeping from her half-seated position to attend to a drooping piece of pastry.

Enthusiasm surrounding this year’s competition was palpable. Though it only boasted a roster of 43 entrants, the contest saw many students, staff, faculty, and retired faculty submissions in the final, water-logged hours.

Despite the last minute entries, Bowman assured us that contestants have been planning tirelessly over the past year. “People who were here last year have been thinking about it. They’ll go to the front desk and ask for suggestions of books or say, ‘Here’s my book can you think of how I can do it?’”

“I was going to do something by myself, but I figured as a team effort we could get a lot more accomplished. It was still a long process,” detailed Sybille Kroemer, a culinary arts student. “We started on Saturday and we worked pretty much continuously every night. We were up until about 1am last night. And then I got up at 3:30am to finish it.”

Kroemer and partner Jackie Woo went through several iterations before submitted their ornate cake clothed in water-colored fondant (based on Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). “I’m exhausted, but it was worth it. It was a lot of fun…I’ve learned a lot from this process. Jackie and I are already planning next year.”

“I made John drive to Albertsons last night to buy shredded wheat,” said Pegeen Soutar, artist behindJack and the Beanstalk, to a friend, as husband John stood in tow. “The little ones [weren’t] going to cut it.” Soutar and her son Josh created quite a stir with their installation of passion fruit-flavored marshmallow clouds and almond cake, which stood nearly two-feet in height.

“It’s cool what they can do,” said SBCC student, Ashley Medina, dazed by the flurry of activity whirling around her. “I liked the train [Murder on the Orient Express], it looks pretty cool.”

“The reason I pick a teacher, a student, and an alumni,” said Bowman on her selection of contest judges, “is because they all bring a different perspective. But they have to come to consensus. Sometimes it’s very hard.”

Sometimes the judges don’t come to a consensus at all, opting to create new categories to reward contestants for their innovation and creativity.

This year’s stock, largely vying for the ‘punniest’ award, were not as fortunate.

2011 Winners:

Highest Literary Merit: Murder on the Orient Express

Best Visual Presentation: Jack and the Beanstalk

Most Appetizing: Treasure Island

Most Nutritious: One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish

Most Easy: Alice in Wonderbreadland

Funniest/Punniest: If You Give a Pig a Pancake

Great Books: Catcher in the Rye

Best Collaborative Creation: Middle March

Inspired by the 2011 SBCC Reads BookThe Immortal Mitosis

Least Appetizing (category addition): Naked Lunch

Best in Show: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo


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