If you’re a fan of books and food, you don’t want to miss the Eat Drink Read Write festival, which runs from October 1 to October 7 at the downtown Birmingham Public Library. I recently spoke with librarian Brandon Crawford Smith who is coordinating this year’s event.
Tell me about Eat, Drink, Read, Write.
Eat Drink Read Write is the Birmingham Public Library’s annual celebration of food, drink, and reading and writing about food and drink. So…that is kind of a mouthful. It is a little more succinct to say that it’s the library’s annual celebration of food, drink, and literature.
Birmingham really is a great town for food and drink—we have great chefs, great bartenders, and some really great writers as well. In fact, some of the country’s best writing about food has come out of Southern Living for many decades. Birmingham has been undergoing a renaissance over the past decade, and the restaurants and breweries have been—in my mind—two of the principle driving forces behind our city’s progress.
The idea for the Eat Drink Read Write emerged from the creative minds of librarian Haruyo Miyagawa and writer/editor Shaun Chavis back in 2011. It has proven itself to be one of the most popular programs the library provides for adults and really seems to capture the imagination of the attendees. Of course, it helps that there are very few people who do not enjoy food.!
I have been a part of the planning for the program since 2014 and took over as coordinator in 2015. As in year’s past, most of the events will be held at the library’s downtown location, and the events will begin on October 1 and end on October 7.
What can participants expect when they attend the event?
“I’ve long believed that good food, good eating, is all about risk. Whether we’re talking about unpasteurized Stilton, raw oysters or working for organized crime ‘associates,’ food, for me, has always been an adventure.”
― Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly
The theme of this year’s program is based on a quote by Anthony Bourdain in which he states that good food is really all about taking risks and that people should really be more adventurous when it comes to eating. So attendees should expect to encounter food and drink and ideas that will challenge them to be somewhat adventurous. We are excited to have Chef Bryant Terry, one of the country’s most celebrated vegan chefs and food justice activists, appearing as our featured guest. He is well known for a dynamic presentation style in which he focuses on the need for a healthy, just, and sustainable food system. Chef Terry is also passionate about eating good food.
We will also have an evening focusing on the growing movement toward incorporating fermented and foraged foods into our daily lives and will have samples of kombucha, curtido, local sauerkraut, and lacto-fermented pickled vegetables for attendees to sample. There will also be an evening sponsored by our Young Professionals board with literary cocktails at the Wine Loft. Oh, and the ever popular Bards & Brews spoken word poetry slam in which some truly outstanding poets will be competing for cash prizes while the audience samples offerings from local breweries.
There will also be a contest or two for patrons to enter in order to win a few prizes.
You have been doing the event since 2011. Why is it important that the library continue to do it?
Eat Drink Read Write is a gateway program for us—we get many new and returning (after many years of absence) faces in the doors of the library who then learn about the enormous number of programs, classes, and resources that we have to offer the public. It has proven to be a great way to build buzz around the library and what we can offer the citizens of Birmingham. The library actually has compelling and provocative programs geared for adults in addition to the expected classes that focus on genealogy or building effective résumés.
What’s next for Eat, Drink, Read, Write?
We are definitely already thinking about next year’s program and would like to incorporate as many small-scale and local farmers and food producers as possible.
Tickets for the Bryant Terry event can be purchased online.