Burning Man has good eats, surprisingly.
For a desert so secluded that even lizards and insects struggle to find grub, it is extraordinary that culinary creativity on the playa exists at all.
When 70,000 people gather in the Black Rock Desert every year, they combine their taste buds to create a smorgasbord of unique cuisine that meets Burners’ needs for both sweet and salty satisfaction, but also a menu that won’t go bad for an entire week in the summer heat.
Here are just a few of the decadent items that you can find at one of the most unlikely foodie zones in the world:
1. Bacon tamales
Savannah Robinson of Houston replaced the pork in her grandmother’s old tamale recipe with bacon. She spends every weekend between February and April making 20 dozen tamales to prepare for Burning Man, during which she spends almost the entirety of her time cooking and serving 400 tamales a day.
“The fun part is all the people that have never tried or seen a tamale before — especially Europeans. We have to teach them to take off the corn husk,” Robinson said.
2. Miso soup
Miso Horny camp creates a lounge where hot sake and miso soup are served during the entire week.
The camp is paired with a “naughty” theme so after your soup, you can take a twirl on the double-decker stripper pole.
While Americans may not be as familiar with these sweet treats, the Dutch are big fans. “Stroop” translates to syrup, according to Anthony “Antwan” Ferber, the head Stroopwafle man. The thin, cookie-like waffle was invented in 1883 by a breadmaker, hence it has yeast in it, unlike other cookies.
4. French fries
What’s a better salty kick than a pile of French fries, or pomme frites? While a lot of camps serve up something during the morning or night, Cafe Surprise French Fries serves French fries in the mid-afternoon, 30 pounds of them.
5. Grilled cheese
This is a Burner favorite. Several camps serve grilled cheese sandwiches in the afternoon and evening, although the camps vary with the sides and condiments that accompany them. Ketchup, pickles, Sriracha hot sauce, raspberry jam, bacon (again) and honey (my new favorite) are just a few ideas.
6. Beignets and crawfish
This classic French pastry is a popular confection that often can be found at the French Quarter, which many New Orleans campers call home during the week of Burning Man. They also have crawfish boil, another beloved dish among Louisiana epicureans.
7. Organic fruit and veggies
Amidst all the camp stove food and dehydrated meals, it is a miracle to discover a camp that provides 4,000 pounds of fresh, organic fruit and vegetables in the middle of the Black Rock Desert. The produce operation is run by Katie Griffith, who works with her partner’s brother, a Winters, Calif.-based farmer. Griffith and her partner use refrigeration trucks to prevent the goods from spoiling. Peppers, tomatoes, cantaloupe and so much more are this camp’s open bounty to the Black Rock City community.
“You start getting accustomed to being so dry — we offer this cool refreshing break. There is a level of gratefulness when you’re eating something that makes you feel better. Yeah, a cocktail can make you feel better, but not in the long term,” Griffith said.
Math nerds often unite over a numerical favorite, Pi — you know, the 3.14 and so on number. But they can unite over Pi and pie during afternoons at Burning Man’s Math Camp. Liking math is not required.
9. Homemade soda
Unless you want to spend a pretty nickel and dime in the default world on some hipster soda out of Portland, Ore., then this is a chance to try free, homemade soda. Camp Hack-a-Cola makes sodas from essential oils, pure cane sugar and “love.” May not be the Diet Pepsi you crave, but it’s probably a little bit better for you.
Pizza is another much sought-after dish in the desert. This pizza is that much more special because it comes with karaoke and is hand-tossed and wood-fired. I mean, really, what more could you want?
Not my thing at all. I cannot appreciate fermented, pickled things, but some people do. The PickleMeElmo Wagon, which is part of the Silicon Village, serves items such as sauerkraut and kimchi, an Asian pickled slaw type of dish, from the camp’s gypsy wagon, the Salt Lick.
12. Snow cones
There is free alcohol everywhere at Burning Man, everywhere. But sometimes you can get it served up snow-cone style. Habitat for Insanity camp serves the Ted Bundy (cotton candy vodka with sprinkles) and the Charlie Sheen (Tiger’s Blood syrup with light rum) among others.