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Readers' digest-ing anyone?

Food24 columnist and restaurateur Cathy Marston wonders if 'book banquets' could be the next trend in South Africa.

by: Cathy Marston | 26 Feb 2009

I was approached the other day by someone wanting to know if we could host a 'Book Club' dinner. I am actually a member of two book clubs. My experience so far is that the main purpose of them both is to chat – sometimes about books, very often not – and drink large amounts of wine. And any eating that gets done is pretty much confined to chocolate. So I wasn't quite sure exactly what she meant.

Apparently her idea was to pick a book which the club had to read and then they would all converge on the restaurant and enjoy a meal themed around the book.

Her suggested text was Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and I have to say it seemed a very good idea especially with that particular book and its settings in Italy, India and Indonesia. We are still discussing menus and ideas and I hope we will give it a bash soon – I'll let you know how it turns out when we do.

Book banquets
So I started to wonder what other 'book banquets' you could have.

Immediately leaping to mind is, of course, Joanne Harris's Chocolat but then, how would that be any different from a normal book club event I ask myself?

Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris? If only the price of Chianti in this country weren't so exorbitant then I'm sure a menu could suggest itself. Or perhaps not.

Or what about Douglas Adams's The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. The idea of an animal which actually wants to be eaten: "Good evening ladies and gentlemen. I am the main Dish of the Day. Can I interest you in parts of my body? My liver is particularly rich and tender – I've been force-feeding myself for months". It is so clever and so funny and makes you question why you eat meat in the first place.

The Edible Book Festival
But all these idle musings pale into insignificance against the ultimate celebration of food and books which is coming up in a couple of months time. The Edible Book Festival which takes place in many different cities around the world – generally organised by students (with too much time on their hands). The idea is to cook something relating either to literature in general or one particular book which you and all other attendees can then eat. If you want to see past efforts, then check out these Ediblebook photos

Most of the ideas seem to be cake-based but I particularly enjoyed the three marzipan chaps and their dog in a gravy dish ('Three Men in a Boat') and the figurine of Jesus set in a bowl of Cheerio's ('The Lord of the Rings'). The festival is held worldwide on April 1st (no, it’s not a joke) and I wonder if it is time to bring this inspiring festival of food and culture to South Africa.

So whaddya think? Are there any book shop owners out there who are up for some genuine Readers' Digest-ing?

Cathy Marston is the owner of The Nose Restaurant & Wine Bar and a fulltime, professional eater and drinker. Any food, any drink, anywhere, anytime...

- None


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