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Appetites: Eating at the fair for fun -- and science

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SnoRibbons
SnoRibbons will be available at the Blue Moon Dine-In Theater. It's described as a combination of "cotton candy, flaky shaved ice and creamy layered snow."
Courtesy of Minnesota State Fair

The Great Minnesota Get-Together kicks off tomorrow, and as anyone who's ever sampled the bacon, or candy bars, or alligator, on-a-stick knows, food is an integral part of the experience.

Rachel Hutton, editor of Minnesota Monthly, shared what she's looking forward to at the 2014 Minnesota State Fair.

      Every year, food vendors are coming up with creative new concoctions to entice fairgoers. What caught your eye on this year's lineup?

I like to get to the fair early, at 7 or 8 a.m., to beat the crowds and the heat, so I think my first stop will be the Breakfast Juicy LuLu — a variation on Minnesota's iconic cheese-stuffed hamburger, the Jucy Lucy. The LuLu is an English muffin with two sausage patties stuffed with American cheese. 

I love cheese, so I'm also intrigued by another riff on a fair classic, which are the cheddar cheese curds coated in a batter made from crushed pretzels.

  What about for dessert?

I'm curious to try the SnoRibbons, a dessert described as "a fusion of feathery light cotton candy, flaky shaved ice, and creamy layered snow." The flavor selection sounds pretty funky, including coffee-and-donuts and strawberry pretzel cream cheese. 

But actually the food I'm most looking forward to trying is the Jell-O Salad Ice Cream from Izzy's. They've taken a sweet cream base and flavored it with lime juice, cranberry sauce, and — in the spirit of state fair decadence — marshmallows dipped in marshmallow cream. I'm sure some people think that combination sounds horrible, but having grown up eating Jell-O salad I'm hoping I'll like it!

  So when you're not eating at the fair, are there other food-related exhibits in such you'll check out?

I'm really excited about the University of Minnesota's brand new research building. They'll be taking advantage of the crowds to recruit fairgoers as guinea pigs for studies on everything from language development to distracted driving to heart health.

There's even one study specifically about fair food, designed to give researchers a better understanding of the self-regulation of eating. They'll ask participants to share their strategizing of the day's food intake, their calorie estimates for those foods, and ways they plan to compensate for indulging.

There's also a video game designed to measure decision-making related to food-safety risks. Another study surveys people about their knowledge and eating behaviors related to legumes. And there's one interesting study that seeks to find more palatable ways of thickening liquids for patients with swallowing disorders. Participants will taste-test several options and rate their favorites and the result could help people who have trouble swallowing, such as those who have suffered a stroke or have Parkinson's Disease. 

So you can eat at the fair and help advance science at the same time.