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Holly Ebel: These books are food for thought

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Srithan Seetamsetty recreates the cover of "The Snow Day" by Ezra Jack.
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If you have never heard of, participated in or been to an Edible Books competition, now is your chance.

The Rochester Public Library will be hosting this event from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday in the library auditorium. It is a unique happening that celebrates a book, character, poem or title in some edible form, however the contestant chooses to do it and not necessarily baked.

Co-chairs Keri Ostby aand Katherine Stecher, both library employees, explain that it is meant to combine books with food but with a creative twist, maybe like a take off on a title. An example from a previous competition: "20,000 Legumes Under the Pea," a seascape made from dried beans. Other entries have been crafted using everything from candy to cheese.

Now in its third year, the event continues to draw more interest and entries every year. Ostby explained: "This is open to everyone in the community and is a great chance for people to be creative. There is no entry fee, and while we would like to know how many to expect, you can just show up at noon on Saturday. We just like to get a number count for set-up and refreshments." The public is invited and are encouraged to vote for their favorites.

Last year there were 20 entries in eight award categories. These include People's Choice — last year's winner was the Hogwarts Crest crafted from jelly beans, made by Hannah and Amy Liebl. There is Judges' Choice–Adult: The winner was "20,000 Legumes," by Paul Van Dellen. In Judge's Choice–Youth (ages 5-12), Srithan Seetamsetty won with a rendering of "The Snowy Day" book cover.

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Other categories include Multiple Artists, Wittiest, Business or Organization, and Library staff and their families.

None of the entries is meant to be eaten, just admired.

Winners receive gift certificates from sponsors including Bravo Espresso, Creative Cuisine Cooperation, Chocolaterie Stam, the Loop, Thyme Restaurant, Victoria's Ristorante and Bar, and the Friends of the Rochester Library.

So who thought up this clever idea? Actually you may be surprised to learn it is a worldwide competition started in 2000 by two friends, Judith A. Hoffberg, of California, and Beatrice Coron, a New Yorker.

At a Thanksgiving gathering with artist friends in 1999, they came up with the concept of food celebrating a book. Their inspiration was an 1825 publication, "Physiologie du Gout" ("The Physiology of Taste"), by the gastronome Jean-Antheime Brillat-Savarin, a humorous meditation on food with many pithy maxims. He was the one, in fact, who wrote, "Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are."

The two ladies had a few stipulations. The event had to be held April 1 or as close to the date as possible, since that was Brillat-Savarin's birthday. (Actually April Fool's Day is a good day to play with food.) All entries must be "bookish" through the integration of text or literary inspiration. They also have to send a link to their photo album or put pictures on Facebook so that it can be viewed and the inspiration and fun shared.

To see what has been done or to get inspired yourself, go to one of these sites: www.library.illinois.edu/ediblebooks or www.books2eat.com .

If you want to participate or get more information, go to www.rochesterpubliclibrary.org or stop by the library.

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