Corin Anderson (magellanic) wrote,
Corin Anderson

Burning Man: Kitchen

I was responsible for the kitchen and for food for our camp. I bought way more food than we needed and didn't quite get the kitchen set up properly for washing dishes after a meal. Here's how I'd want to set up a kitchen for BM in the future (I'll talk about the pantry another time):

I have a two-burner propane camping stove - it worked great. We cooked one or two times each day in order to feed about 6 people (our neighbors used our stove, too, bringing their own propane; I never learned why they had propane but no stove...) and we used about 1.25 canisters of propane. I had brought 10 canisters -- you can see how poorly I estimated some things. I would use the camping stove again, and I'd bring only about 4 cylinders of fuel. I would hope to cook more in the future, but using even 2 full cylinders would be tricky. 4 would be more than adequate.

We had also brought a grill and charcoal briquettes. I'd leave those at home -- we never felt like being in a BBQ mood, the charcoal is big and heavy, and with an RV we already have a redundant cooking device.

I brought one skillet and two pots -- I should have brought a second skillet. Bacon and eggs; two omelettes or quesedillas at a time; hash browns and sausage -- there were lots of meals for which a second skillet would have been useful. Having two pots was useful but less so -- mostly we could go twice as long between washing them. We borrowed, then never returned, a small pot from a neighbor, and it was very handy when we wanted to heat something small. Covering a large pot in 1/2" of milk, for instance, just seems sorta silly.

What I really regret having not set up properly was a washing station. We got only as far as wiping off plates and such with wet towels, and soon enough didn't bother with that, which meant we often had only dirty plates or bowls. In future I would have two tubs set up for washing. One would have soapy water and would soak dishes and such. The other would have rinse water. Toss dirties into the soapy water and either wash or let them sit. After washing, rinse in the less-soapy water, and finally let them dry somewhere. I would also bring a proper dish drying rack, and set that up inside the RV (less dusty). Occasionally the soapy water would be dumped, the rinse water would become the wash water, and new rinse water would be added. Yeah, it's pretty clear that I'm a perfectionist freak, but I know that not having clean dishes bothered me quite a bit.

After dishes were washed we tended to leave them in the RV. That was a good idea -- we could find them easily, we knew that whatever dishes in the cabinets we found were clean, and dishes in the RV got less dusty than those elsewhere.

I used a large tub to hold all the pots and pans used in the kitchen. The lid had two snaps at the handles to help hold it on the tub, which reduced how much dust got in. This tub didn't need to be in the shade, too; it just sat out near the camping stove. This was a good setup.

Our camp was oriented NE/SW, which meant that no part of it was in shade the entire day. In future I would like to set up the camping stove and cooking area somewhere that's shaded all day long. Probably near the back of the shade would work well -- I wouldn't want it sprayed by the water trucks or covered in dust when an art car drives by. But it's good for the propane to not be in direct sun during the top part of the day.

We used plastic plates, bowls, and cups, and metal silverware. Had we used paper or disposable everything we could avoid cleaning, of course, but we would have had a lot more trash. We also would have had a lot more small matter that could blow away in a wind storm. Using and washing reusable cutlery and eatware is probably the way to go. I tried writing each person's name on cups and bowls, but that didn't work all that well. No one seemed to mind eating or drinking from each others plates or bowls, and dish washing happened in bursts, not each-their-own. I think, I would still write names on cups, because those are used throughout the day, and may not need to be washed, depending on each person's preference. For bowls and plates, nah, probably we don't need to be that fussy. I liked using metal silverware because I felt like I was still being civilized, not resorting to cheap plastic everything for the week.

I bought a lot of towels before this trip: 4 hand towels, 2 bath towels, and 8 wash clothes. I also brought 2 more hand towels I owned previously. The hand towels got scattered about camp but were very useful -- you could always find a towel to clean up something when needed. I brought some dish rags for this use as well but they never camp out. Oh, well.

I brought two can openers. Really, this was one can opener more than I needed. I brought a spare of a lot of things, but the truth is, it's expected that you'll ask your neighbors for things if yours break. We lent our ladder, our salt, our baking powder, and our camp stove out to our neighbors, and we borrowed a pot, a cork screw, and probably a few other things during the week. One can opener is enough; there's several thousand can openers elsewhere in Black Rock City and everyone's happy to share.

I brought about the right collection of mixing bowls: one small, one intermediate, and two medium-sized bowls. We never used the small one, I believe, but we used the other three. Some were used for baking cookies, some were used for mixing scrambled eggs. Definitely handy to have.

All the food preparation needed only one 6' folding table. We had to move the kitchen several times during Burning Man, because shade moved during the day and because a wind storm knocked all the tables over. With a permanently-shaded location a single table would work great. It would hold the stove, some bits on top, and part of the pantry or coolers below. We brought the pantry in milk crates, and we thought about using them and our left-over 2x6s as a make-shift table or benches but that never proved necessary (or convenient, but again, that's partly because our camp was pretty disheveled). I would want this table to be used exclusively for food, though -- piling tools or used shower towels on it sorta gets old. You can never have too much counter space in your kitchen, in Black Rock City or otherwise.

Trash around camp found its way into real trash bags, and we used 5-gallon buckets as trash cans. These worked really well for the job.

To recap:

  • Camp stove + 4 16oz. propane cylinders.
  • Two skillets.
  • Two medium-sized pots.
  • Two spatulas.
  • Two tubs, 10"x18"x4", for washing and rinsing.
  • Dawn or other dish soap.
  • Sponge
  • Dish drying rack
  • Large tub to hold skillets, pots, etc., near the camping stove.
  • Reusable plastic dishware.
  • Silverware.
  • Towels.
  • Three rolls of paper towels (we used at least 1.5 rolls).
  • One can opener.
  • Spatula.
  • Serving spoon (probably part of the silverware set).
  • Mixing bowls: 1-, 2-, and two 3-quart(?) bowls.
  • One 6' folding table exclusively for food prep, pantry storage, and cooking.
  • One 5-gallon bucket for trash (handy for other camp needs; probably want more than one).
Tags: burning man
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