I’ve discussed food issues in other posts, but it’s getting to be that time of year when people start mulling over Burning Man food options. Everybody has different ideas about what’s the best food, how much precooking should be done, how much on-playa cooking is realistic, how to clean up, what to do about those coolers…
I love food. I’m a little bit foodie, but mostly I prefer flavor over flair. Food texture is also important to me. I’ve cooked most of my life. For my family, for myself, and professionally. I’ve cooked for 200 people. I’ve cooked for 3 people. I’ve cooked outdoors in high winds, pouring rain, and snow. I’ve been evacuated because of wildfires and had to break down and rebuild an entire outdoor group kitchen quickly. I’ve used a kitchen tent as a refugee camp during a 4-day blizzard. I have cooked in the wilderness on a backpacking stove. I have cooked in a big commercial kitchen. I HAVE COOKED.
But you know what? I don’t cook at Burning Man. I’m pretty burned out on cooking these days, and even more burned out on cleanup. Last year, the only cooking I did was firing up my mini disposable hibachi one morning to cook a steak, two lamb chops, and two hot dogs. One little quicky bbq session for 3 meals. I’m repeating that this year. I considered cooking them at home, but I decided I like the smell of searing meat, and the little hibachi doesn’t take up much space. All the rest of my food is prepared ahead of time and eaten directly out of the cooler or storage containers, on paper plates, paper bowls, or paper towels.
Items that I pre-make at home include bacon (I bake it. Why do you think they call it bacon?), hard boiled eggs, spicy bloody mary mix, homemade granola, and smoothie for the drive and the first morning. This year I’m considering a fun appetizer if I get time: dates stuffed with almonds and goat cheese and wrapped in bacon.
I bring a lot of finger food. I like cheese (brie and swiss) and crackers, salami, dried mango, assorted chips, canned green olives, pickles, cherry tomatoes, apples and oranges, celery, arugula, sweet snacks, plain yogurt and granola for breakfast, assorted liquids (kombucha, coconut water, beer, bottled coffee drinks).
I order pizza in Susanville the night before my arrival, and I save half of it for the next day. I munch on it while putting up my camp the first day, and there’s usually enough left for dinner the first night. I love pizza and don’t care if it is hot, cold, dry, soggy, or a couple of days old. Give me that pizza. Maybe I’ll even order a small pizza in addition to the large and have it for lunch my second day on the playa. Can’t have too much pizza.
Maybe I’ll take some kind of flavored almonds this year. I like tamari almonds, or those wasabi ones. I love pistachios, but I don’t want to take those shells to the playa, and pre-shelled ones are no fun. I’ll also throw in a Tasty Bite meal for emergencies. That’s pretty much the only reason I’m taking the backpacking stove. In case I need to boil water. Not bringing the regular Coleman stove this year. I just don’t need it. I get my hot coffee at the Cafe. That saves me lots of time. I’ll take my stovetop espresso maker with just enough coffee for a rainstorm that keeps me from getting to the Cafe for coffee.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love it that so many people DO cook at Burning Man. And many of them share. I like eating food that somebody else cooked. In terms of consumables, food, not booze, is my favorite gift to receive at Burning Man. And I envy people at some of the camps that cook beautiful meals for their camp members. Yum.
But I can’t have that food because I cannot handle community kitchens. I have learned that about myself over the years. I just can’t. I am so utterly anal about food storage and food prep that I can’t even stand to look in a friend’s cooler on a camping trip. Freaks me totally the fuck out. I put in my years of being the one who cleaned up shared kitchens. I put in my years of being in charge so that I wouldn’t have to clean up other people’s messes because they weren’t allowed to touch anything. And then one day I couldn’t do it any more. It’s bad enough that I can’t lock the kitchen at home and not allow anybody in it but me (yes, I would actually like that, because I’m completely nuts). The kitchen is MINE. And since I’m a solo camper at Burning Man, I don’t have to suffer a panic attack because somebody touched MY cooler (aackkk).
I AM happy to share my food though. Sitting in the shade sharing beer and a plate of cheese and crackers and fruit is a pleasant afternoon activity.
Here are some pictures of Burning Man food, kitchens, and eating that people have posted over the years. I can’t believe I’ve never taken a picture of my Burning Man food. I will do that this year.