Taking a bite out of books

Festival sponsored by trio of schools

Michael Gray stirs jello for the SWOS edible book project. The after school poetry workshop put together 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea using jello, green onions, goldfish crackers and cookies. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Michael Gray stirs jello for the SWOS edible book project. The after school poetry workshop put together "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" using jello, green onions, goldfish crackers and cookies.

Books aren't just for satisfying the urge to read. Once a year they are used to appease hunger as well.

The International Edible Books Festival made its way to Cortez on Saturday, March 23 when the Cortez Public Library hosted the event for the first time in the community.

More than 15 edible creations were made for the festival that was put forth by Soutwest Open School sight coordinator, Rita Stramel. Under the auspices of the 21st Century Grant, Stramel involved all three schools that are directly under her guidance - SWOS, Mesa Elementary and Manaugh Elementary.

Stramel, who moved to Cortez in August of last year, came from Hays, Kan. where she was first introduced to the event. Also held at the public library in Hays, Stramel saw how much fun and interaction it created with teachers, students and locals.

The project has been celebrated world-wide since 2000. Communities can participate in the event however they choose as long as they hold the festival on or around April 1, which is considered Edible Book Day. The festival began as a commemoration to French gastronome Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, author of the "Physiology of Taste," a book with witty meditation on food.

Stramel thought the project would be perfect for the SWOS students.

"It's a lot of fun and a great excuse to have kids think about books, working with food and being artistic," Stramel said. "It's a multi-subject kind of project."

The art classes at SWOS jumped on board and Stramel held an edible book workshop the Thursday before the event. Students produced a jello adaptation of "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," with goldfish crackers and green onions as floating fish and seaweed.

The community was openly invited to participate. Stramel made a few items herself. An apple pie sitting atop three ears of corn was her representation of "O Pioneers" (pie on ears) by Willa Cather. She also created a small, purple jelly-filled novel with laffy taffy binding for "The Color Purple" by Alice Walker.

Other book creations like "Charlotte's Web," featured spiders made from rice krispie treats covered in chocolate frosting and a web molded from breadsticks, also done by SWOS students. There were three categories divided into age groups for each edible concoction: 11 and under, 12 to 18 and 18 or over. All three categories were judged on creativity, most appetizing and least appetizing.

As patrons came and went into the library, children were most hypnotized by the food. A large beehive produced from vanilla wafers and honey, wrapped around a teddy bear reading a book, was a unique take on the children's classic, "Winnie the Pooh." It was a favorite among the wandering children.

Rita Stramel pushes the binding in place for her edible book, The Color Purple. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Rita Stramel pushes the binding in place for her edible book, The Color Purple.

Rita Stramel’s take on “O Pioneers” by Willa Cather. Enlargephoto

Rachel Segura/Cortez Journal

Rita Stramel’s take on “O Pioneers” by Willa Cather.

Southwest Open school student Sarah Harris braids candy Rips Whips into a coconut tree for the edible book contest. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Southwest Open school student Sarah Harris braids candy Rips Whips into a coconut tree for the edible book contest.