Burning Man Hippies Love Lime Sorbet With Jasmine and Violet
If you've been going to Burning Man and subsisting on Gatorade and Clif bars, you've been doing it all wrong.
Held in Black Rock Desert, Nevada, since 1990, Burning Man began as a ragtag assembly of a few hundred artists, miscreants, hippies and pyromaniacs who set out to create an "experiment in temporary community" in the desert -- or just to have a good time and set a few things on fire.
In the intervening years, the event has grown from a hundred-or-so-person campout into a fully functioning city with a population hovering around 61,000, complete with its own post office, radio stations, airport and, in more recent years, a burgeoning restaurant scene.
Some of Black Rock City's dining spots welcome all comers, others are invitation-only, but none charge money for their offerings. Burning Man works a "gift economy" -- which means that nothing is bought or sold there (with the exception of bags of ice and coffee at Center Camp). Instead, every Burner is expected to give of themselves in some way, and one simple way to do that is to share food. Here, we tour just a few of the myriad desert dining options.
L.J. Williamson Hot holes at Camp Kammaniwannalaya
After the food in your own cooler, the most common shared eating experience throughout Black Rock City is to snack on treats shared by neighboring camps. Near the intersection of 3:00 and G, (Burning Man's streets are laid out as concentric circles on a clock), the unclothed members of one camp each morning offered "Naked Bacon" to passersby, who were also required to strip for their strips.
Near the 3:00 Plaza, a sweeter breakfast option was available at "Cereal Thrillers," a larger camp that specialized in, as one participant described it, "all of the breakfast cereals your mom wouldn't let you eat as a kid." Cocoa Puffs, Honeycomb, Lucky Charms and just about every other sugar-bomb breakfast treat was on offer.
At the suggestively named Kamaniwannalaya, campers were up before 7:00 a.m., shouting to passersby, "Hot holes! Come eat our hot holes!" as they deep-fried doughnut holes, offered with six different frostings ("all frosting-flavored, but different colors!") with fresh coffee. The doughnut holes were so hot you couldn't hold them in your fingers, so you had to pop them into your mouth as quickly as possible instead. And after a night of Burning Man-style partying, any doughnut holes would have been good, so incredibly fresh and hot ones, dainty and thumb-sized, were like manna from the fryer.
Pay-To-Play Breakfast at PlayaSkool
L.J. Williamson French Toast for the well-to-do Burner
Burning Man's answer to all-inclusive resorts, PlayaSkool is but one of the enterprising camps that provide everything to paying customers -- shade structures, showers, lights, tents, a bar, an art car and two meals per day plus snacks, all for $750 (single person tent) or $3,500 (2-person RV). PlayaSkool's website, complete with pictures of hot chicks, boasts that "Not all camps are created equal!" Well, of course they're not -- they're not working with that kind of budget.
Although some complain that the purchased package Burning Man experience flies in the face of the event's ethos of "radical self-reliance" and a scrappy, DIY spirit, no one can say you'll go hungry there. For Wednesday's breakfast, PlayaSkool was serving French toast, bacon, pork sausage, yogurt, watermelon, Cheerios, Raisin Bran, Frosted Mini-Wheats, coffee, tea and Gatorade. "And we might do pancakes," said one of the unpaid volunteer cooks.
The Staff Commissary
L.J. Williamson A commissary meal.
"Today, we'll be serving 2200 people," said Shelly, head of the Burning Man commissary that feeds the workers who build and run the city and all of its central structures. Meals here are fairly straightforward: Wednesday's lunch was baked chicken, broccoli and tater tots; and for vegetarians, butternut squash with quinoa and tofu, plus a salad bar, ice cream, cookies, and coffee. It's challenging to serve that number of people, especially when some of them are vegans or have allergies. "But we do the best we can with what we have out here," Shelly said.
In addition to a trailer full of sinks with running water (a luxury at Burning Man) and foamy soap for mandatory pre-meal hand washing, the commissary also features an elaborate recycling system, with separate bins for wet and dry compost, recyclables and landfill trash. Since waste-hauling is not a simple matter in the remote desert, it's a necessary adaptation that at once feels distinctly un-cafeteria-like, yet completely logical.
L.J. Williamson Recycling station at the commissary
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