UMass Libraries hosts a virtual but successful Edible Book Festival

Whether it’s in-person or virtual or virtual next year, I plan to be there again!”

Nina+Walat+%2F+Daily+Collegian

Nina Walat / Daily Collegian

By Rachael Dionisio, Collegian Correspondent

Hosted annually since 2018 through UMass Libraries and internationally since 2000, the Edible Book Festival took place on April 1 in commemoration of author Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin’s birthday.

What would normally be an in-person event took place virtually this year, and invited members of the Five College community to “submit photos of their edible book-inspired creations,” the UMass Libraries website stated.

The rules for entry, which were also listed on the website, consisted of each entry depicting a literary work or character, being edible and submitted by noon on March 30. An entry form was posted for contestants to fill out and voting opened on April 1 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., in categories, “Best in Show,” “Most Creative” and “Best Pun.” A gallery is also posted on the website, showcasing all of the entrees for the festival.

Annette Vadnais, Student Success & Outreach Librarian, spoke about the different atmosphere of the event this year. “Normally, in-person, the voting is held for a few hours, with eating immediately following the announcement of winners,” she said. She included that this year, the winners will be contacted after the closing of the voting form.

“It takes more work to set up in person, as we need to set up a space, and have all the submissions ready to view and vote,” Vadnais said.

Laura Melbin, an academic advisor of the College of Information and Computer Science, said that this was her first time participating in the event.

“I am the baker for my friend’s birthday cakes (adult and children), and I enjoy theme challenges,” Melbin said. “However, my neighbor was turning 10, and asked for a carrot cake. They chose ‘Peter Rabbit’ as a theme, probably because they prefer carrot cake above all else, and so I decided to use this as an opportunity to make an awesome cake for them, and also to enter the contest for the first time.”

Melbin included that her goal is to have the cake taste amazing first, and then “if it looks cool or weird, that’s the bonus.”

Hayley Cotter, a doctoral candidate in the Department of English, was inspired by “Quan Tangshi” for her entry. “Although my primary area of research is English Renaissance literature, I have long had a personal interest in Classical Chinese poetry,” she said.

Cotter said that she created her cake with melted chocolate, to form the body of the book, and fondant. She then wrote directly on the fondant with edible ink and added some twine to “approximate the binding of a Qing book.”

Virginia McLaurin, an academic advisor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, was inspired by the rhyming of the film “Dune” and the anime series “Sailor Moon”, to make a cake that somehow incorporated both. “Of all the ideas I had, that image stuck with me as the weirdest and most absurd one, so of course that is what I had to make,” she stated.

McLaurin also said that despite the different dynamic of the event this year, she enjoyed being pushed to try new things in cake decorating.

“I did miss seeing the library staff watch the cakes come in [to the library], others setting up their creations, and students coming in to vote and comment on them…Whether it’s in-person or virtual next year, I plan to be there again!”

Rachael Dionisio can be reached at [email protected]