For the uninitiated, Burning Man is a week-long festival in the Black Rock desert of Nevada. Check out their website for a more detailed explanation.

I refused to cook at my first Burn. The whole idea sounded time-consuming and messy. So instead of substantial meals, I ate packaged foods and snacks like Tasty Bites, tuna packets, string cheese, yogurt, crackers, chips, and hard-boiled eggs.

By day 4 I was crabby. By day 7 I was starving for real cooked food and desperately ate the bacon my campmates brought, even though I was mostly vegetarian at the time. Stereotypical, I know.

Preparing for my second Burn, my (now) husband, offered to be our chef because let’s face it, when your partner is happier at the Burn, you’re happier too. This worked out great for a while. I felt like a princess every time I was handed a tasty egg sandwich or a plate of freshly made stir-fry. After a few years he started to get crabby about having to cook all our food. Since I too am happier at the Burn when my partner is happier, I realized it was time for cooking equality.

Over the past few years we’ve collaborated on planning and preparing real food for Burning Man. It turns out that it’s pretty simple and when you prepare most of your food in advance it doesn’t require washing a bunch of dishes on the playa like I had feared. We’ve worked out a pretty awesome system and today it’s my gift to you.

How to Eat Real Food at Burning Man

  1. Choose three main meals that you’ll be happy to eat 3-4 times during the week. This year we’re bringing taco salad, pulled pork salad, and Moroccan lamb stew. Remember that you likely won’t eat 3 square meals a day and your portions will be smaller. It’s hot out, you’ll be having fun far from camp, and you’re bound to take up someone’s offer of a meal elsewhere.
  2. Pick a time to cook your food in advance and put it on your calendar. You can plan out three different shopping and cooking days to break it up, or choose a marathon cooking day where you knock it all out at once. Prepare foods that can be frozen in advance, and then fresher stuff just before you leave.
  3. Portion and package prepared foods in reusable plastic containers or good quality plastic bags and put them in your refrigerator or freezer as appropriate. Don’t skimp on container quality unless you don’t mind cooler-waterlogged taco meat.
  4. Use the 3-cooler system at the Burn:
    • One well insulated “freezer cooler” that isn’t opened often. Pack this with your frozen main dishes and some dry ice to start the week.
    • A refrigerator cooler where you can thaw your frozen meals, which also helps keeps your dairy products, fruits, veggies, and condiments cold.
    • A drink cooler that gets opened all the time, but that’s ok because nothing’s really going to spoil.
  5. Bring good quality cookware. Just one or two nice pots with lids and a good stainless steel skillet will make clean-up much easier. Good quality cookware will help prevent a stuck-on mess. Plus they are easier to rejuvenate when you get back to the default world.

Fill in the gaps with other real foods like eggs and yogurt for breakfast, canned salmon or tuna, and good quality jerky and trail mixes for lighter meals and snacks. Your colon will thank you if you include some fruit and veggies too.

These strategies will provide you with delicious food that you actually want to eat, makes you feel great, and requires a quick reheat at most. They’ve certainly made me a happier camper.

For more Burning Man packing tips from yours truly, plus a handful of other experienced Burners, check out this Mighty Goods article.

See you on the playa!

If you like this post, please share it with your Burner community and maybe we’ll all be a little more well-fed and happier this year!

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