Choosing your food for Burning Man

When I browse the various packing lists for Burning Man that are all over the Internet, many items are common to all of the lists. But food choices vary widely from list to list. Some people like prepared meals. Some prefer mostly snacking. Some lists are designed for communal kitchens. Others are for small camps where people mostly fend for themselves or cook for a couple of people.

I’ve seen communal kitchen lists with tons of dry beans and lentils, that sort of thing. I don’t get that, as beans and lentils need to be soaked and cooked for a significant period of time, using up both water and fuel, not to mention needing somebody around to stir the beans. I’m betting that the camps that started out with lists like this changed their ways after actually cooking at Burning Man. I would of course cook all of the beans and lentils in advance if that was my food choice. That’s probably what these camps do now. I like beans and lentils, but seriously, they are not what my mind says I’ll crave at Burning Man.

I took the advice that I found on numerous lists and packed such things as canned peaches in the cooler. They were nice, but still not what I really craved. I took precooked bacon, which hit the spot a couple of times, but what I really craved was a steak. Yeah, I’m a carnivore, and all that sun and exercise made me crave charred meat. And the hot dog I got at a food camp was just heaven. So this time I’m taking steak, lamb chops, and hot dogs. Yes, yes, I’m taking fruit and salad too, along with salty snacky items, my many containers of coconut water, and beer.  And I’m taking spicy bloody mary mix and celery for a cool, crunchy non-alcoholic snack in late afternoon. Lots of sodium. Yogurt, granola, and fruit should be just fine for breakfast. Quick and easy. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but I’ll throw in a package of cookies and maybe a bit of chocolate to keep in the cooler. And those sweetened coffee drinks in bottles will make a nice caffeinated sweet snack.

With six nights at BRC to cover, I figure I’ll eat real dinner several of those nights (in late afternoon, before heading out) and then just go with portable snacks the rest of the time. I need a few regular warm meals. I once took a road trip with a woman who doesn’t like meals and only snacks on cold finger food. I was ready to kill her and throw myself off a cliff after a few days of that.

Being a solo camper, I don’t like how much time I spent last time on basic tasks like making coffee, even though my meals were streamlined. The time I spent fixing and drinking my two cups of morning coffee was spent alone at my camp. I feel like I missed the morning playa by the time I was done. So this year I’m bringing iced coffee for afternoon pick-me-ups and I’m budgeting to get my morning coffee at the cafe where I can people-watch and get a quick start on some morning art browsing on the far playa. More contact, more time. I’ll still bring my little stovetop espresso maker in case I want that cup of hot coffee when I’m in camp, but since I decided to expand my dinners just a bit to account for the meat cravings, I can make up the time lost there with my coffee strategy.

I took too much food last time, but not by much, since I’m used to camping in the heat for days or weeks at a time. It was mostly those extra cans of peaches and pears that were left, as well as a few beers. I gave the beers to the folks who helped lift my heavy yeti back in my truck on my last day. I wish I had known that I could drop off the extra cans of fruit for the folks staying to clean up the city. I know that now and plan to throw in a little box of non-perishables just for them.

I plan to take enough beer to share a few again this year. I had fun the day I stopped at the little cardboard “beer” sign on K street. The guy was nice, made room for me and my bag of ice (I was returning from the ice place) under his tarp and gave me a cold beer.  The weather in 2011 was on the mild side, but this year is more likely to be the typical hot week in the desert.  Cold, refreshing stuff is the order of the day, and you never know when somebody cruising by might need a spot of shade and a cold beer.

Feel free to browse the food on my packing list and offer your own suggestions for successful Burning Man food.

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