On the tables sat the sinking Titanic, bleeding cookies and a Harry Potter book. And shortly after they were judged, they were eaten.
The Teton County Library combined punny wordplay and playing with food into a single event Thursday at its Edible Book Festival. Over two dozen families, individuals and businesses created cakes, pies, cookies and savory treats to celebrate and honor their favorite books.
The entries in the contest, 26 in total, existed on a spectrum ranging from visual puns at one end and feats of food design at the other. Participants were invited to bring their displays early for judging and public observation, before judges announced winners for People’s Choice, Funniest and Punniest, Best Savory Entry and Best Sweet Entry. After judging was completed, guests were encouraged to taste the creations. Volunteers pulled paper-and-board copies of the books used as inspiration so onlookers could see how cover art influenced the creations.
The design standouts included a large fondant-draped dedication to the Harry Potter series and a cake likeness of the Titanic sinking bow-first into a bowl of blue Jell-O, inspired by Lauren Tarshis’ “I Survived the Sinking of the Titanic, 1912.”
As for pun-motivated entries, there was Spam that had been meticulously trimmed to match the outline of the continental United States for Brian Krebs’ Spam Nation, an ode to Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” that let eaters choose between vegetables and canned Easy Cheese. And there were large chocolate-chip cookies playfully stabbed with knives for Joanne Fluke’s “Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder.”
Some entries went beyond titles and cover art to highlight foods mentioned in books, like a delicious gooey honey pie celebrating A.A. Milne’s “Winnie-the-Pooh.” Regardless of concept, all entries were delicious, and even those with a serious sweet tooth would not struggle to get their fill of sugar.
While most offerings were family affairs, there were also some local businesses with entries. Lucky’s Market supplied a “Game of Thrones”- inspired spread complete with roasted turkey legs and savory cheese pies. Jackson Whole Grocer was inspired to make a “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” cake complete with wooden wand and golden snitch.
The People’s Choice winner was a cake designed by Madelyn Krasula, 11, and Joy Hayashida-Ludington, 8, friends from Kelly Elementary School. They celebrated John Vernon Lord and Janet Burroway’s children’s classic “The Giant Jam Sandwich.”
“My parents used to read the book to me when I was toddler and I’ve always liked it,” Madelyn said of how the book was chosen. The actual entry was a large cake filled with oozing red icing and dried grasshoppers, a reference to a passage in the book where townspeople use the eponymous sandwich to solve their wasp infestation.
“The bugs are edible!” Joy explained to anyone pausing long enough to wonder if the dried grasshoppers were real or some sort of elaborate confection.
With so many fun and entertaining entries and over 75 attendees, the event was deemed a success by organizer Angela Jordan, who serves as the library’s adult services manager.
“It went well, and we hope to make this an annual event,” Jordan said, before thanking the many people who made the event possible. “We couldn’t have done it without our volunteers from the Teton County Library Foundation and Friends of the Teton County Library. They helped pull books to be displayed with the food, helped judge, and helped with setup and cleanup.”
Library Director Dawn Jenkin, now several months into her post, also enjoyed the event and even brought a pot of scratch-made meatballs and red sauce to celebrate Judi Barrett’s “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.”
“I want to empower our employees to take ownership over projects,” Jenkin said. “Angela came to me and said she had done this event in the past and wanted to bring it to our library, and I told her ‘Wonderful, run with it.’”
Jenkin explained that the edible books event fits into the category of community programming, which, along with expanding the library’s collection and technological offerings, will be the library’s strategic focus in coming years.
As for deciding how to expand the library’s collections and tech resources, Jenkin welcomes community suggestions.
“Your feedback and participation will deepen our understanding of your information and learning needs to build an even more responsive library,” Jenkin explained in a press release the day before the Edible Book Festival. Specifically, Jenkin is inviting thoughts on the types of assistance the community is looking for to assist with “connecting our community to the technologies needed for working, learning and living.”
With over 600,000 physical and virtual visits in 2018, Jenkin also noted that the library is moving in the right direction.
“We’re thrilled with the outcome of the year’s library use- value calculations. It’s beyond affirming to see that for every tax dollar spent on the library, citizens get $5.32 back in library collections, services, programs and facility use.”