Cooking the Books

By: Lisa

FoCo Book Fest dishes up some tasty fare.

by Laurel Thompson

Food and books are two of Fort Collins’ favorite things. You can get your fill of both at the fifth annual Fort Collins Book Festival, set to take place October 18-19 at locations around town.

Sponsored by the Poudre River Public Library District and Colorado State University’s Morgan Library, the FoCo Book Fest brings together readers and writers for a cornucopia of workshops, panels and readings that revolve around a central theme that’s integral to local culture. This year’s theme, “Food for Thought,” will be explored by culinary experts from around the world, including luminaries such as award-winning author Rick Bass and Esquire magazine food editor Jeff Gordinier.

“The idea for the festival came from the Poudre River Public Library District’s Board of Trustees quite a few years ago,” says Anne Macdonald, adult services librarian and co-chair of the FoCo Book Fest. “We had an author series as a partnership with CSU’s Morgan Library where well-known writers came in quarterly, so we started talking about doing something similar that would put Poudre Libraries and Morgan Library on the national map. But we didn’t want it to be like all the other literary festivals that grab authors who happen to be touring or work with different publishers to bring in certain authors, so we came up with a local theme and started selecting our speakers based on that.”

In previous years, the festival has focused on themes related to craft brewing, music and science and technology. When it came time to choose a theme for this year’s Book Fest, food seemed like a natural choice. Local agriculture, CSAs and farm-to-table philosophies play a large role in the Fort Collins food scene, so this year’s main panels are set to explore topics related to food sustainability, food justice and farming. Panelists will include representatives from the Poudre Farmers Collective and local experts on local farming and CSAs, as well as scholars like Ken Albala and Michael Carolan who study the sociology and culture of food.

“In the grand scheme of things, food is power,” Macdonald explains, “so we’ll also have a panel about the politics and ethics of food here in Fort Collins and around the world. It’s all about incorporating popular topics and educating the public about these issues.”

Esquire magazine food editor Jeff Gordinier

Award-winning author Rick Bass

This year’s festival will take place across a handful of venues in downtown Fort Collins, including the Lory Student Center and the Mill Top at Ginger and Baker. Rick Bass will give the opening address on Saturday morning at Ginger and Baker, and Sean Sherman, CEO of the Sioux Chef and the co-founder of the nonprofit North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems (NATIFS), will deliver the Saturday night keynote at the Lory Student Center alongside Esquire editor Gordinier.

“We always bring together a combination of local, national and even international authors to speak at the festival,” Macdonald says. “We have about 40 speakers participating this year, some of whom are authors and others [who] are industry experts who specialize in a certain area and take a more educational approach. We try to incorporate a variety of topics so that there’s something for everyone, and we always get speakers who are really good at making these concepts easy for people in the community to understand. They’re really easygoing sessions that are fun and engaging for everyone.”

Food demonstrations will be held at Scrumpy’s Hard Cider Bar and the demo kitchen at Ginger and Baker, and workshops will take place at the Old Town Library. Other festival venues include Old Firehouse Books, New Belgium and Wolverine Farm Letterpress & Publick House, where authors will do live readings and engage the public in Q&A discussions. There will also be a Chautauqua performance at the Bas Bleu Theatre by a woman who does an impersonation of Julia Child, which Macdonald says will be a hit.

“We always bring together a combination of local, national and even international authors to speak at the festival,” Macdonald says.

Another highlight of this year’s FoCo Book Festival will be a Mexican cooking session in Spanish at Ginger and Baker, with translation headphones available for English-speakers. There will also be a young writer’s workshop at the library on Sunday for teens and tweens, which will be led in Spanish by Dr. Octovio Quintanilla. In addition, Northern Colorado Writers will be running the second annual FoCo Writers Read event at the Art Lab. Anyone can sign up to read one of their pieces for 10 minutes onstage. This is a great opportunity for beginning writers and college students who want to share their talent with the community.

“What’s really unique about the Fort Collins Book Festival is that we really try to break down cultural and socioeconomic barriers, so everyone feels welcome,” Macdonald says. “The event is always completely free, and we do this on purpose to encourage a diverse crowd. This isn’t an exclusive literary festival where you have to know people and pay to participate—this is a community event that everyone can enjoy.”

If you haven’t checked out the FoCo Book Festival yet, this is the year to attend. Visit for the full festival lineup.