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February 25, 2008

Leaves of Lettuce
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 04:45 PM * 68 comments

My inbox reminds me: there’s something from the bookbinding world that I want to bring to your attention. There’s no point posting this on the day itself: an event held on April 1 is not going to be taken seriously, and this is a serious matter.

Two serious matters, really: books and food.

April 1, you see, is not just the Feast of All Fools; it is also the birthday of the father of food writing, Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. His eight volume Physiologie du Goût, ou Méditations de Gastronomie Transcendante; ouvrage théorique, historique et à l’ordre du jour, dédié aux Gastronomes parisiens, par un Professeur, membre de plusieurs sociétés littéraires et savantes (The physiology of taste, or, Meditations of transcendent gastronomy; a theoretical, historical and topical work, dedicated to the gastronomes of Paris by a professor, member of several literary and scholarly societies) was published anonymously in 1825 and took Paris by storm. It has been in print ever since.

You can download it in English translation here. He covers matters as diverse as the number of senses (six: sight, hearing, scent, taste, touch, and physical love) and the end of the world. It’s full of bizzare little anecdotes and meditations (“Take a raisin” “No I thank you; I do not like wine in pills.”) I’d put it with the older editions of Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable for unreliability and downright strangeness.

In honor of Brillat-Savarin’s birthday, bookbinders all over the world celebrate the Edible Book Festival (Le Festival international du livre mangeable), making books out of food. The term “book” is stretched to its limit by some examples (I believe that is The Grapes of Wrath), but the entries are certainly interesting and memorable.

Edible Book locations for this year are still being posted. If there’s one near you, it might be fun to check it out. (I, being a grumpy old sod solitary artist type, have never participated, but I hear good things from people who do.)

But if you can’t go, perhaps this thread might be a chance to take a moment, amidst the grief, fear and anger, and turn to the twin comforts of gastronomy and literature. What books would you bind edibly?

I’ll start by suggesting a salad binding of R is for Rocket.

Comments on Leaves of Lettuce:
#1 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2008, 05:11 PM:

Your last sentence is a pun that's going to fly past most of your readers, Abi.

#3 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2008, 05:20 PM:

Sir Francis Bacon would approve.

#4 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2008, 05:20 PM:

You might have to be familiar with mass-market publishing to get this one, but Tortilla Flats would be fun to do.

#5 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2008, 05:21 PM:

And the horns sound.... A-Rooooooh-gulla.

#6 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2008, 05:25 PM:

"Sometimes a Great Potion."

#7 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2008, 05:26 PM:

Tea with the Black Dragon pretty much binds itself.

#8 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2008, 05:26 PM:

One wonders how To Serve Man would look.

#9 ::: HP ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2008, 05:30 PM:

Fragano (1): You rapscallion, don't sel Abi's readers short. We're not so green as you think. I'm sure Abi just tossed that one off, but I had no trouble parsleying it. Lettuce have more puns leek this one, I say, endive right in!

#10 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2008, 05:33 PM:

Teresa asks, "What books would you bind edibly?"

Naked Lunch, of course.

#11 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2008, 05:36 PM:

Never a dill moment here, is there?
That's what you get in a roomful of sage writers.

#12 ::: HP ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2008, 05:39 PM:

Other books from our salad days:

Jack London, White Fang: mâche

Carlos Casteneda, The Teachings of Don Juan: mesclun

#13 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2008, 05:39 PM:

jh woodyatt @10:
Teresa asks, "What books would you bind edibly?"

*cough*

#14 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2008, 05:40 PM:

Teresa asks, "What books would you bind edibly?"

Naked Lunch, of course.

#15 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2008, 05:42 PM:

HP #9: How saucy of you! I would have stalked right by your post with celerity, were it not peppered with such pungent phrases that deserve to be included in the ar-chive. Still, such things are meat and drink to us all here, and I would not steak much that there will be many food-related puns in this thread; I expect that she planned to bread quite a few.

#16 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2008, 05:43 PM:

Many of us weren't found under cabbage leaves.

#17 ::: Darth Paradox ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2008, 05:44 PM:

Here at work I'm looking at the pile of Java books on my shelves.

Including one entitled Java in a Nutshell.

A largish walnut shell might be good for a particularly strong dose of espresso...

#18 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2008, 05:45 PM:

I have some sage advice for the punsters here; leave off, or you'll rue the day, for sure as shooting, someone will stalk you, and the wages of sin is death, which celery you don't want to earn.

#19 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2008, 05:51 PM:

HP #9: I would have stalked right by your post with celerity, were it not peppered with such pungent phrases that deserve to be included in the ar-chive. Still, such things are meat and drink to us all here, and I would not steak much that there will be many food-related puns in this thread; I expect that she planned to bread quite a few.

#20 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2008, 05:53 PM:

I wish I had thyme to do this. But if I take on another project, I'll roux the day, and have to ganache my teeth over the time I spend on it.

#21 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2008, 05:55 PM:

Dammit. I misread the byline. I need to cut down on the caffeine today.

#22 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2008, 05:55 PM:

Terry Karney #18: I'll take your sage advice with a pinch of salt. In the immortal words of someone or other, all you need is lovage.

#23 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2008, 05:58 PM:

I wish I had thyme to do this. But if I take on another project, I'll roux the day, and have to ganache my teeth over the time I spend on it.

#24 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2008, 06:03 PM:

I am resolutely -- nay, bitterleaf-ly -- ignoring the salad of puns, the melange, the melting pot of punnery to suggest a book for the edible binding thereof: Dust by Elizabeth Bear. It should be covered finally in a light layer of chocolate powder. I'm not at all sorrel for my suggestion, either.

Tat-, tat-, tatsoi folks!

#25 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2008, 06:16 PM:

..Oh, do me a fava and put in "Saladin of Pouls" for edible binding too. It's bean a great book to re-read.

#26 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2008, 06:18 PM:

Well, for Episcopalians the definitive volume is The Supper of the Lamb by Robert Farrar Capon, whose very title is a pun both on theology and on the recipes contained within.

#27 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2008, 06:27 PM:

C. Wingate #26: Given the name of the author, I expect that there would be a number of recipes featuring fowl (or would those count as cannibalism?).

#28 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2008, 06:34 PM:

Fragano @ 27: I hesitate to point out that I myself am a well-known spice and am routinely added to Chinese dishes. I feel a bit rash in saying that I don't like myself. Oh, I've gotten used to my flavor, but it's not something I like. It's never crystallized into actual dislike, though.

#29 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2008, 06:43 PM:

And so it bacons. These are not the ponzu are looking for.

Year of Rice and Salt, done as a mosaic of Oryza and Zizania grains showing the world.

Perhaps also the SF classic 'Flan,' by A. E. vin Vodka,

And Ray Bradbury's 'Icing the Body Electric'

#30 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2008, 06:56 PM:

How about Tolkien's classic, The Gobbet, or There and Back Again? It could be bound in nice fresh meat, my precious.

#31 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2008, 07:01 PM:

...or The Dragonfruit Riders of Pernambuco?

#32 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2008, 07:16 PM:

I think In the Night Kitchen would be interesting, though my sole memory of the book is the "I'm in the milk and the milk's in me, God bless milk and God bless me," which may not even be from it. I suggest not dunking the book in milk. That is for cookies.

I am still disappointed that Horace Mann elementary school did not title their cookbook appropriately.

Edible books: Carol Berg has Flesh and Spirit which is probably mostly about which wine to serve with chicken, beef, et cetera. Cherie Priest's books, either Four and Twenty Blackbirds or Dreadful Skin, would work-- pies and extra-crispy fried things. I'm not sure if The Left Hand of Darkness would be made of coffee, chocolate, or perhaps charcoal, so you have to (horrifyingly) burn the book to cook with it.

#33 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2008, 07:16 PM:

I rather like Green Eggs and Ham, though it might make the slipcase slip a bit too much from all the melted butter.

#34 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2008, 07:50 PM:

Lettuce not forget, the classic tome for culinary jobseekers..... Richard Bolles' "What Color is Your Patachoux?"

#35 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2008, 08:00 PM:

"No Eggsit?"

#36 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2008, 08:21 PM:

*looks at thread*

*greens*

#37 ::: Adrian ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2008, 08:32 PM:

"The Seasonings," by PDQ Bach, would have to be bound edibly, if anyone were to publish it by itself. (Lyrics include "Have you onions? And have you savory? We have no savory today," and go on as one might expect.) I don't know HOW one would go about making an edible binding to last longer than a performance. Even something like nori is not really durable enough to write home on.

#38 ::: Richard Clark ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2008, 08:33 PM:

"A Saucer of Loneliness" would stand by itself (perhaps topped with a bit of caviar?)

#39 ::: Richard Clark ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2008, 08:44 PM:

Did they specify who could eat the result? If not, I have a perfect application for Von Neumann replicators (eventually): Making Book.

#40 ::: Tracey C. ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2008, 09:08 PM:

Oh, thank you, thank you! This is actually happening locally, I have time to think about what to make (or steal excellent ideas from above), and can submit! Oh frabjous joy!

(I'm definitely partial to Java in a Nutshell right now - I have candy molds in the shape of walnut shell halves, and I can fill them with espresso ganache)

#41 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2008, 09:14 PM:

If a musician's biography would be acceptable, I'd recommend To Hell and Back, by Meatloaf.

It just cries out to be covered in ketchup.

#42 ::: Suzanne F. ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2008, 10:47 PM:

Dalgren, A Dal's House: lenticular tomes.

#43 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2008, 11:43 PM:

abi, when I saw "Leaves of Lettuce," I expected it to be Teresa. She's the one with the hamster.

Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang

Tea from an Empty Cup

#44 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2008, 11:48 PM:

I keep reading the Recent Comments as "The Secret Lives of Lettuce" which might be pretty interesting.

#45 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 12:49 AM:

Leaves of Lettuce? No...Leaves of Grass. As part of a triumvirate including The Grass Harp [Capote], and of course, Grass [Tepper].

#46 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 01:49 AM:

Or anything by Günter Grass.

#47 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 04:04 AM:

What to bind? A Moveable Feast, best done covered in fish fillets, preferably caught by old men.

#48 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 04:25 AM:

Bruce @46:
Or anything by Günter Grass

You put me in mind of a shocking gap: we should have a smokable book festival as well, perhaps on Sir Walter Raleigh's birthday.

#49 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 04:54 AM:

Lord Chesterfield, Lettuce to his Son
John F Kennedy, Profiles in Porridge
Samuel Pepys, Dairy
John Milton, Arugulapagitica

SF:
Robert Heinlein, Tofu Beyond The Sunset
ibid, The Mousse Is A Harsh Mistress
Iain M Banks, Against A Dark Chocolate Background


48: not everyone smokes, but I'd go for a drinkable book festival. "The Drawing of the Dark" (real ale saves Christendom!) and "Earthquake Weather" (Californian zinfandel saves America!) come to mind, obviously. I think Tim Powers books are rather like Withnail and I; if you try to drink along with the characters, bad things will happen.

#50 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 07:48 AM:

abi @ 58

A trippy suggestion. How about lighting up "The Man in the High Castle"?

But speaking of the pursuit of the edible, why not consider edible art as well (or bind a coffee table book for an artist and eat that)? Arcimboldo's "Vegetables" seems like a good choice.

#51 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 07:54 AM:

Bruce Cohen, SeerToFutures @50:

Would you like to try again on that link? I do not think it leads where you think it leads.

#52 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 09:10 AM:

abi @ 51

... mumble mumble cut and paste mumble rotten vegetables mumble ...

Sorry, let's try this instead.

#54 ::: Malthus ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 11:36 AM:

Hogfather? The Last Hero doesn't quite work as an edible book, although you could do a sandwich binding of the cover.

#55 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 12:29 PM:

Drinkable books? Well, of course, nothing could beat J.R.R. Tolkien's disquisition on the ale of Oxfordshire: Lord of the Drinks.

#56 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 01:09 PM:

Taking it straight, no changes of title:

Tea With the Black Dragon

Bolt (perhaps a bit conceptual, with some bolted lettuces)

Sugar Street

Stardust (riffing off Ginger's idea for Dust)

#57 ::: Dan S. ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 01:17 PM:

Cod. (and &tc.)
Any collection of authors/litcrit/individual work of authors from the Kailyard school, kale/cabbage leaves
Rubyfruit Jungle (grapefruit peel)
A Wrinkle in {Thyme}
Biography of Sir Francis Drake - duck feathers.
The House at Pooh Corner (etc.) Honeycomb.
On the Road - Beet leaves. (also: Justine)
The (Hore)Hound of the Baskevilles.
The Nonexistent Knight and The Cloven Viscount.
Any retelling of the myth of Demeter and Persephone: pomegranate rind.
The Marrow of Tradition (chestnuts)
That horrible, horrible book about how workers bear complete responsibility for everything that happens to them and should happily accept every new CEO-salary inspired downsizing: some particularly smelly cheese. Or better, cheese product.
Das Boot: long bread roll.
Hamlet! (but with rue, rosemary, and fennel . . .).
The Catcher in the Rye.
The Wizard of Oz - poppyseed bagel.
DVD packaging - Firefly (Saffron).
Like Water for Chocolate
The Passing of the Great Race (Great White Northern beans)
Lonely Planet:Peru (Lima beans)
I'd say an edition of the collected shorter works of Denis Diderot (strozzapreti), but apparently that's a misquote. Ah, well . . .
Birth Of The Cool: Beat, Bebop, and the American Avant Garde (cucumber slices)
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (apple - y'know . . .)

#58 ::: Dan S. ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 03:00 PM:

Peter Pan (bread)
The Tragedy of Tragedies, or the History of Tom Thumb the Great (Tom Thumb lettuce)
*An Account of the Brandybuck family east of the Brandywine River (heirloom tomatoes)
The Wasteland, Prufrock, and Other Poems (peach pits, oyster shells, coffee spoons, dulse).
The Saga of the Volsungs (Indian curry containing spinach/mustard greens).
Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog)- sour cherries.
Selected Works of Cicero (chickpeas)
Little Red Riding Hood (lupini beans)
The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (Turkish Delight.)
Ender's Shadow (Haricots verts)
Doctor Zhivago/Collected Poems of Boris Pasternak (parsnips)
* Speculations Concerning the Secret Heir to the Throne of Ankh-Morpork (carrots)
A Thief of Time, by Tony Hillerman (Anasazi beans)
Witness, by Whittaker Chambers (pumpkin)
The Big Sleep (almonds)
Omphalos, by Philip Gosse (Navel orange-rind)
The Narrative of Cabeza De Vaca (head cheese)
Great Expectations (wedding cake - or apple seeds)
Don Quixote (Manchego cheese)
Rootabaga Stories . . .
Fair Game, by Valerie Plame Wilson (leeks)
Mutiny on the Bounty (breadfruit)
The No Spin Zone (ah . . . ridged gourd)

#59 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 04:17 PM:

[OT] Dan S @57, ooh, yes — one of those really aged Stilton-type cheeses that look like something out of HP Lovecraft, full of warts & blotches & oddly-coloured fungi for that disgusting ... Cheese? book. Work sent us to a seminar with that theme some years back, it made me quite narky with the assumptions behind the concept.
Perhaps with a garnish of something really runny, symbolising either the spinelessness & helplessness expected of them that do the actual work, or the kind of principles of those who advocate its ideology.[/OT]

#60 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 04:52 PM:

This is a neat caper...

Oliviacw @ 45 mentioned Capote which made me think of binding In Cold Blood in thinly sliced black pudding.

I don't feel quite so hungry now.

#61 ::: Cassandra ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 08:04 PM:

This is something like what I'm trying to do, recreating menus from "Alice in Wonderland" and "Lud-in-the-Mist" for dinner parties.

I hope that this comes to Boston.

#62 ::: dlbowman76 ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2008, 10:30 PM:

I can't say that I approve of this sort of speculation. The availability of edible books preys on the most gullible of readers.

After all, they'll swallow anything.

#63 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2008, 10:08 AM:

ajay @ #49: Robert Heinlein, ... The Mousse Is A Harsh Mistress

Or "The Moon is a Hard Cheddar".

Also "The Bread-Rolling Stones", "Fennel in the Sky", "Pea-Podkayne of Mars", and of course "Thyme Enough for Loaf".

#64 ::: Kayjayoh ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 01:52 AM:

For abi, since you asked.

There once were some leaves made of grass,
Which tasted quite nasty, alas.
So abi took lettuce,
To see where that'd get us,
And now they are eaten en masse.


#65 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 02:38 PM:

[OT]@Dan#57 and @Epacris#59: Which book needs a smelly cheese binding again?
[/OT]

What to Expect When You're Expecting - bound in good milk chocolate, with pages comprised of such things as Constant Comment tea and sugar; willowbark and sugar; cocoa, milk solids and sugar; cut black and orange pekoe tea and sugar; etc. All pages to be suitably composed or perforated such that an appropriate steeping mixture can be easily obtained. (adjust contents to suit taste - my wife likes milk chocolate, hot chocolate, very sweet tea, etc...)

What to Expect When Your Wife is Expanding - bound in willowbark, hollowed out to contain a flask of really good whiskey. (I like whiskey, and screams give me headaches, too...)

Later,
-cajun

#66 ::: Richard Klin ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 08:41 AM:

I'm surprised nobody's mentioned THE BEANS OF EGYPT, MAINE or GRUB(B?) STREET.

"War and Peas"?

#67 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 11:03 AM:

cajunfj40 @65: The original infestation was simply called 'Who Moved My Cheese?', but this has evolved into assorted strains, of which Large Print, Audiobook and Who Moved My Cheese Change Survival Kit with CDROM are comparatively innocuous compared to the acutely pernicious 'Who Moved My Cheese? for Teens' and the horrifying 'Who Moved My Cheese? for Kids: An A-Mazing Way to Change and Win!'

I wasn't thinking so much of the fragrance as the repellent appearance of some of the very 'mature' and well-developed varieties. I wasn't able to find a good online picture, and have previously been monstered by security people for taking photos in shops (Pineapple Spam!?), so haven't my own picture.

#68 ::: palau ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2008, 09:28 AM:

It's sad there's nowhere/one in the Netherlands participating; particularly so as Amsterdam is World Book Capital 2008.

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