There are hundreds of ways to earn a ribbon in a Minnesota State Fair food competition. This year's "pickles" category alone boasted 15 different divisions, from "bread and butter, sweet" to "bean, can include dill."
When it comes to vegan-specific ways to win, though, there's pretty much only one: the "vegan main dish competition," which gave plant-based home cooks a chance to show off their finest veggie-heavy meals starting in 2011.
So a Minneapolis mom was thrilled when the recipe she spent weeks testing -- working through about six different versions before landing on one she felt proud to enter -- was among the plates that placed this summer. She didn't finish first, but hey, it was her first time competing, and she'd only been vegan for about a year.
"She’s pretty excited to be a part of this contest, and she couldn’t believe that she even placed," says her daughter, Jess*.
But the surprises didn't stop there! Because in addition to a ribbon, the entry earned her another prize. A coupon for a bag of Cooked Perfect frozen meatballs.
No, not the vegan kind.
Jess posted a picture of the "prize" to a Facebook group called Vegan Minnesota late last week, where it's earned a lot of thinking-face Emojis from confused commenters. Sure, we're talking about the State Fair -- land of butter busts carved from 90-pound hunks of pure dairy -- but couldn't she have gotten... I dunno, one of those new First Kiss apples? This wasn't just a vegan-presenting meal with meat byproduct hidden somewhere way down the ingredient list, it was straight-up balls of meat.
According to Jess, mom's "not one to stir the pot," presumably unless it's a literal pot. She asked if we'd let her stay anonymous (hence the asterisk up top, Jess is a pseudonym), because her mother's more baffled than upset. Competing in the cook-off was fun, and the meaty mix-up hasn't dampened her love of the fair.
She doesn't want drama -- there's already been more than enough beef in this situation for her liking -- and Jess tells us she still plans to compete again next year.
Who knows? By then, organizers might be able to track down coupons for a complimentary Amy's burrito instead.