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Column: A weekend to celebrate soy

This weekend, Farmington will be home to one of only three soybean festivals in the nation. Considering soybeans are one of my favorite legumes (second only to chickpeas) I can scarcely believe the rarity of soybean festivals. We are privileged to host one right here in Farmington. The soybean festival will be yet another distinction for our small city already crowned with the honors of the Dakota County Fair and Dew Days.

My mouth is already watering at the thought of the soy foods I'll be munching Saturday afternoon. I plan to fill my tummy at the sustainable foods fair in the farmer's market lot and then head over to the Soybean Parade at 1 p.m. Forget the Taste of Minnesota. I'm not waiting until July to taste the greatest foods Minnesota has to offer. On Saturday I'll be tasting the soybeans of Minnesota right here in Farmington.

Soybeans are really underrated. I love those low-fat fake sausage patties made out of soybeans. You can eat three of them for every one Jimmy Dean patty on the Weight Watchers plan. I also enjoy soybeans straight out of the shell, which my co-workers find exceedingly strange. I bring a little Tupperware container of them to work and prop it on the desk next to my monitor. Then I pop open the pods and munch the beans while I'm busy typing away. It's better for my teeth than munching jelly beans. I can live with my co-workers' accusations about my weird habits if I can make my dentist happy. He's a real stickler on not eating sugary snacks between meals.

Another strange soy food I enjoy are soy crisps, a snack that tastes like a cross between rice cakes and baked potato chips. One of my former co-workers (a slim guy I'll call John) eats a bag of soy crisps every day. Not a single-serving bag, but an entire family-sized bag. The little wastebasket in his cube is filled with empty soy crisp bags by the end of the work week.

One afternoon a group of us were chatting in the open area between cubes. John emerged from behind his cubicle wall to join us, still clutching the soy crisp bag he was currently munching from. Another guy pointed at the soy crisp bag and said, "What the heck are those? Are they any good?" John replied, "They're good but they're weird. You know they're good because I like them. You know they're weird because Mary likes them." Once again, my reputation for weird foods precedes me.

Although soy crisps and soy sausage patties are weird to many of my co-workers, soybeans are all not at all unusual in Minnesota. They are all around us. Soybeans are nature's perfect food, growing right here in Farmington. I often wax prosaic on the beauty of Farmington's cornfields, but the soybean fields are where it's at. Yummy nutrition, all wrapped up into a handy pod. A pod you can pop open in front of the computer and impress your co-workers with your healthy eating habits. I hope you can join me at the Minnesota Soybean Festival on Saturday and share my joy of soy.