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Celebrate Knute with a bowl of bean soup

It's that time of year to celebrate local history by commemorating Knute Nelson's birthday with his favorite meal - bean soup.

The annual fundraiser sponsored by the Douglas County Historical Society (DCHS) will be held Tuesday, February 1 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Governor's Room at the Nelson Gables, 1220 Nokomis Street in Alexandria.

To add extra flavor this year, luncheon guests will be able to vote on whether Minnesota's Senator Knute Nelson's recipe is favored over Idaho Senator Fred Dubois' potato recipe. 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.

The recipe by Knute Nelson will be prepared in addition to a potato recipe recently featured by Echo Press column writer Sue Doeden, who will attend the event and serve guests. Both soup varieties will be prepared by Tom Knutson, chef at Alexandria's Knute Nelson/Nelson Gables.

Cost for the lunch, including croissant sandwiches and dessert bars, is $10. Take-out containers will be available.

The fundraiser for DCHS is being held to continue the preservation of local history.

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. Legend has it that the recipe changed after a potato shortage in the 1950s.

Have a delicious lunch, vote on your favorite bean soup and support the preservation of Douglas County history.