Sugar beets grown in the Red River Valley of North Dakota and Minnesota are the most important source of American-made sugar. Contemporary sugar production and consumption provoke some bitter disagreements. Local growing and processing of sugar beets is an essential economic driver in the Red River Valley region, yet these gains would not be possible without massive federal subsidies. Moreover, genetically modified sugar beets are refined into a substance that is directly linked to national epidemics of diabetes and obesity. This article explores lessons the author learned by moonlighting as a truck driver for the sugar beet harvest. Rather than dismiss industrial food as fake on the one hand or “foodie culture” as entitled on the other, the author looks for how the quest for authenticity can transcend this divide. He argues that food work offers ways to see differently the priorities of people invested in both local food and industrial food systems.
David Haeselin teaches in the Writing, Editing, and Publishing program in the Department of English at the University of North Dakota. He is an avid home bread baker and cider maker. You can read his writing on food at the Los Angeles Review of Books and Hybrid Pedagogy, and on other topics at Tin House Online, Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction, and The Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy.
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David Haeselin; Digging In. Gastronomica 1 February 2019; 19 (1): 55–64. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/gfc.2019.19.1.55
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