Do you read cookbooks for pleasure? Do your cookbooks feature recipe “improvements” that you’ve penned in the margins? Do you maintain a bookshelf in the vicinity of your kitchen dedicated to books about food? Have you baked a Savarin cake?
If you answered “yes” to the above, then I am happy to inform you of an annual holiday for people Just. Like. You.
The first of April foretells of spring, when we exit the dusty mindset of winter to frolic in the bright, wet world coming to life. As prudence succumbs to exuberance, even the most seasoned people can behave foolishly, shedding inhibitions like woolen sweaters. The ensuing frivolity is an annual amusement for the masses. But for you, the erudite culinarian, there is an alternative celebration—at Loganberry Books in Cleveland’s Larchmere neighborhood.
On the first Saturday of April, Loganberry Books hosts the Cleveland iteration of the International Edible Book Festival, founded in 2000 by art-book curator Judith Hoff berg and paper-cut story artist Béatrice Coron.
The event, also known as Edible Book Day, celebrates the birth of French luminary Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin and his most enduring work, The Physiology of Taste. First published in 1825, the book is a series of 30 “gastronomical meditations.” Some of the subjects push the limits of what one might think of as gastronomy: “In Meditation 26, On Death,” Savarin defines death as “the complete interruption of sensual relations”—or the seemingly inconvenient end of tasting.
Loganberry Books owner Harriett Logan began hosting her Edible Book Festival event in 2004. The contest requirements, Logan says, are to “bring something to do with books made of entirely edible components.” That level of stringency limits contestants to do anything that pops into their head.
I attended last year’s event, which, with 10-foot-high ceilings held aloft by stacks of books and plenty of comfy chairs, is a bibliophile’s dream. Voting-ballot in hand, I marched back to the fiction room, joining scores of voters deliberating over the entries and the awards: Logan’s Most Literary; Best Binding; Otis the Cat’s Most Appetizing (named for the resident spoiled cat); and Zober Best Pun (named for a pun-loving family that has participated every year).
Few entries resembled books, but I was mesmerized by one in particular—a homemade fruit-leather-bound volume with phyllo-dough pages, as browned and brittle as an actual antique. Most of the entries featured representations of book titles, themes, characters, and storylines using food such as marshmallows, pretzels, candy, potato chips, bread, cookies, pasta, and gobs of frosting.
Harriett explained that the festival has grown in children’s submissions and noted the tendency for puns. “I was expecting more sculpture and recipes from books,” she says, “[but] we don’t get the Proust Madeleines; we get the Ezra Pound Cake.”
In the end, I wondered: Why celebrate an obscure 19th-century French gourmand by building punny hyperglycemic sculptures?
“Just to celebrate the ingestion of culture and push the boundaries of artist books. It is an interesting way to look at daily food products in a completely different way: form, function, and symbolism,” festival founder Béatrice Coron says.
Or, as Harriett puts it, “It’s a crowd pleaser. It’s participatory. It’s fun to see what people come up with.”
In short, Loganberry’s Edible Book Festival is a family- friendly event that is still attractive to the over-achieving sophisticate. Which is, I guess, as it should be. It’s spring, after all. Time to lighten up and be a little playful.
This year’s Edible Books Festival is set for 1pm on Saturday April 1 at Loganberry Books and Strong Bindery, 13015 Larchmere Boulevard, Shaker Heights. For more details, call 216.795.9800 or visit LoganberryBooks.com