Eating Books: How To and Why

April Fool’s Day is the biggest day of the year for caution, what with all the pranks your friends are surely concocting to surprise you. One steps lightly, takes their email with a grain of salt and checks toilets for plastic wrap on the First of April. But there’s more to this day than being exploited for your (really, my) gullible nature (I’ve fallen for a few pranks in my time). Do you know what else happens on this glorious day? A Texas tradition, that’s what! The Austin Edible Book Festival, you goose!


Here’s How it Works:

Festival entrants participate by constructing a dish that is representative of a book title through puns or wordplay. These concoctions-often sculptural, sometimes literal, always engaging, are laid out to be admired and then voted on in a variety of categories, including Funniest, Most Appetizing, Least Appetizing, Best Construction and Best in Show. The winners get prizes, and then we eat everything. Or, at least in my experience, everything that didn’t win Least Appetizing. Some of my favorites from the last couple of years include “Gone Girl-ic Bread,” a loaf of garlic bread stabbed with a knife and drizzled with marinara sauce; “20,000 Big League Chews Under the Sea,” an aquarium filled with Swedish Fish and Big League Chew gum; “The Holy Bivalve,” a biblically-decorated cake shaped like a clam; and “Game of Scones,” a cookie chess board with mini scones for pieces. Perfection.

The first iteration of the festival came about in 2000, pioneered by art librarian and curator Judith A. Hoffberg and artist Béatrice Coron as way to celebrate the power of literature as a means to ingest culture and ideas. April 1st was chosen to honor the birthdate of French author and gourmet Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, whose La Physiologie du Goût was written as a witty meditation on the edible arts. The tradition was adopted in Austin by the University of Texas School of Information in 2003, and since 2014 has been hosted at Half Price Books on North Lamar.


It’s so much fun. People get really creative with their entries, and some of the puns at play are even more delicious than their edible manifestations. And if the joys of wordplay aren’t enough to get you pumped about this, the festival also kicks off a food drive to benefit the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas that runs throughout the entire month of April at HPB on North Lamar. You can eat weird stuff AND feel good about helping our community. Win-win!

So if you’re in the Austin area or are looking for a reason to visit, come be a part of this scrumptiously absurd event. You don’t have to sign up, just show up with your entry. We’ll know exactly why you’ve come into a book store with a fish in a kilt “Troutlander”, a temporarily-intelligent bowl of curry and bread “Cauliflowers for Algernaan”, or a seemingly ageless jar of Dijon mustard “The Picture of Dorian Grey Poupon”. We’ll save you a spot at the table during the first day of the best month you could hope to have. Welcome!

Zach Nash is the Community Outreach Specialist at Half Price Book North Lamar.

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