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Lowell Anderson | Echo Press Many people came to Nelson Gables in Alexandria on Tuesday to try two different bean soups and vote on which they thought was the best. The event was a fundraiser for the Douglas County Historical Society.

Bean battle

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They came. They tasted. They voted. And the winner of Tuesday's "Bean Soup Taste-Off" at the Douglas County Historical Society was NOT the recipe used by Alexandria's famous Senator Knute Nelson.

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Instead, the honor went to Idaho Senator Fred Dubois' bean soup recipe that includes - heaven, forbid - potatoes.

The recipe was recently featured by Echo Press food column writer Sue Doeden, who attended the event and served guests.

It was a very close contest - the potato version won by just eight votes.

"I think we should have a recount," joked Rachel Barduson, historical society director. "It was a hard-fought battle."

The taste-off was a twist on the historical society's annual fundraiser held on Knute Nelson's birthday. The senator's favorite meal was bean soup, which Senator Dubois also enjoyed.

Both former senators are credited with mandating the delicacy as a mainstay on the menu of Capitol Hill's Senate Restaurant since the turn of the 20th century.

For the taste-off, both soup varieties were prepared by Tom Knutson, chef at Alexandria's Knute Nelson/Nelson Gables.

This year's event raised about $1,100 but there was more to it than a way to make money.

"We want to keep history visible and alive by having little events like this," Barduson said. "Making history fun - that's the important thing."

Historians have written that had Knute Nelson, who served Minnesota as governor and as a United States senator, been born in the U.S. instead of Norway, he might have been elected president of the U.S. Longing for a taste of home while he served as senator, Nelson made bean soup from Minnesota famous by asking that it be added as an item on the menu of the Senate Restaurant.

Today's versions of the bean soup, served in three public Capitol Hill cafeterias, calls for only navy beans, ham hocks and various ingredients. Dubois' version included potatoes, a nod to his home state.

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Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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