Forget the new food-on-a-stick. The biggest novelty this year may be the newcomer in the food competition at the Minnesota State Fair's Creative Activities building: a vegan main dish.
Yep. The home of the butter sculpture, Pronto Pups and pork-chop-on-a-stick now offers a vegan outlet. (Vegans -- not to be confused with vegetarians -- eat no animal products and that includes no eggs, dairy or honey, in addition to the no-meatapproach.)
It wasn't the U.S. dietary guidelines that prompted the change. Florence Brammer of Minneapolis, a vegan for more than a year and a vegetarian for several more, opened the discussion. "Once you get that bug [about nonmeat options], it's something you want to share, hopefully not in an obnoxious way, but that makes people more aware of how things make their way to the plate," she said. "It wasn't a hard sell, but I was persistant." Brammer was enough of an advocate that she's offering a vegan cookbook as one of the prizes.
The contest brought in 13 entries for its first year, with many dishes making use of brown rice or couscous. "The recipes that came out on top had lots of flavor, whether spicy or a good use of herbs with seasonal vegetables," said Christine Seppanen, a judge for the competition and a vegetarian herself.
Minnesota did not break new ground nationally with the contest, however. Utah and Iowa state fairs have vegan contests, as does Texas with its own vegan fried-food competition.
But the Minnesota prize? Almost priceless at $10 for first place.
Have an innovative idea for State Fair competitions? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.