Corin Anderson (magellanic) wrote,
Corin Anderson

Burning Man: Pantry

I provided for most of the food for our camp. In the end we had way more food than we needed, probably about twice as much, in fact. Here's a selection of the big items I brought:

  • 4 gallons milk
  • 4 half-gallon cartons orange juice
  • 20 UHT milk and chocolate single-serving milk cartons
  • 6 cans baked beans
  • 16 cans tuna fish
  • 4 pounds butter
  • 8 types of cheese
  • 3 16-oz. bags of grated cheese
  • lots of crackers
  • lots of lunch meat
  • 6 pounds bacon
  • 2 pounds chicken sausage
  • 2 loaves of bread
  • 4 dozen eggs
  • 8 8 oz. pasteurized egg product cartons

We drank half the milk and half the orange juice, we ate one can of baked beans, we ate one of the eight cheese blocks (the brie), and all of the bread.

A typical day of eating turned out to be: eggs or pancakes for breakfast; snacks for the rest of the day; eggs or something else for dinner. The canned tuna was great for meat: it's safe to eat right out of the can, it's tasty, and it's protein. I'm happy we ate so many eggs. I overestimated how much milk would be used for cereal and drinking in general, likewise for Orange Juice. In future I would bring only 2 or 3 gallons of milk, only one gallon of orange juice, and none of the UHT milk cartons. I would bring 4 dozen eggs again; scrambled eggs and omelettes are quick, tasty, and nutritious. I wouldn't bring the fake eggs -- real eggs are easy enough to manage (put the cardboard egg cartons in a water tight bag, though). Shredded cheese was convenient and used for quesadillas and omelettes, and three 16-ounce bags was the right amount. We should have brought more canned vegetables, just for variety, to use in this sort of cooking, too.

Sandwiches were another favorite food. Cold or toasted were tasty. We brought two loaves of bread and we finished it all. I'd bring a third loaf in the future. We brought hotdogs and hamburgers, and hotdog and hamburger buns, but used none of these things. Variety wasn't so important, we found: sandwiches, quesadillas, eggs, and prepared salads, repeated day after day was just fine. Fewer choices would scale better.

I made three dishes to take with us: coconut rice (rice cooked in coconut milk), tuna and cheese casserole, and a broccoli cashew salad (incl. raisins and bacon). I really liked the salad, mostly as a source of vegetables. The casserole was okay cold, it would have been better heated up, but my camp mates didn't want to be bothered. We didn't eat any of the rice; we never had the occasion to. I wouldn't make the rice again but I would make the (or a) salad again. It should be something that would last for a week (broccoli and cauliflower work well, for instance) and that many people would enjoy eating. I made more than I thought I'd eat but was surprised it was popular with my campmates. We still brought one-third of it home. The tuna casserole was convenient -- just grab something and eat -- but not necessary. With more bread it's just as easy to assemble a sandwich.

The big clever idea we had was to order Indian take-out food, freeze it, and reheat it on the playa during the week. That worked *great*. The curries needed only a few minutes to reheat, two entres and rice was about enough for a meal for four or five of us (supplemented with some crackers or chips or whatever). The dishes themselves weren't water tight; we should have sealed them in plastic bags. And, the rice they provided should have been repackaged (it came in a 9"x13" disposable tin). We brought 8 entres and rice with us and we came back home with one entre. This was the right amount. The only problem was that the food was a little spicy.

As a back-up plan for food I'd also brought along 6 - 8 2-person entres of backpacking food ("just add hot water"). We used none of this food but I'd still bring it along -- it's lightweight and small and a good safety margin. It is a better safety margin than getting 30% more eggs and milk, which are far heavier and need to be kept cool.

We used four coolers for most of the week, dropping one on Saturday and dropping a second on Sunday. The RV had a refrigerator that we didn't manage well -- it held just random things. In hindsight we should have put commonly-accessed things (eg, butter, milk, bread products) in the fridge, and opened the coolers only when necessary. The fridge was certainly big enough for a few days' food. The RV also had a freezer, which we filled with ice cream, but we didn't really use this to our advantage ever. We ended up giving much ice cream away to passers by on Sunday, and still bringing a few cartons of it home. The ice cream we did bring was in small pints, which was sorta hard to share (needs scooping, bowls, and spoons). In future I'd want to bring more single-serving ice cream. Filling the freezer with it is still a fine idea. We should also give it away beginning earlier in the week.

We used milk crates, closed-top bins, and the RV cabinets, for storing our dry goods. The cabinets were the best choice, for finding things and for staying not dusty. The closed-top bins, especially the ones with the lids that clamped down on the ends (see my previous post about Burning Man: Kitchen) were second best. The milk crates were duds: everything got dusty, it was hard to see what was in each crate, and soon enough the contents were intermixed between the four crates of food. In future I would not bring crates but would bring more of the bins (18 quart Sterilite Ultra Storage boxes), they would be labeled, and I would bring one or two empty bins, to hold anything that's pulled out from a bin and not put back properly. The RV cabinets are convenient and were a great place for bread (stayed out of the sun and dust) but are otherwise used for stowage while we're traveling; we can't expect we'll have them empty for food.

I'm a big fan of soda that's sweetened with cane sugar, not high fructose corn syrup. I brought about 24 bottles of such soda, and another dozen or so bottles of Honest Tea. The Tea was a big hit and I drank plenty of the soda. I'd bring about the same again. We all also drank plenty of water on the playa but a cold Coke or root beer mid-day was pretty nice.

It's easy to get rid of extra food that's tasty. We cooked too much bacon and sausage one day -- it took asking only one camp to find someone who was only too happy to have it (the first person I asked was vegan; his brother was not, and was hugely grateful to have non-vegan food). So: bacon, sausage, portable and tasty foods (eg, ice cream), it's okay to bring a bit extra of. Boring foods: buns, bread, butter, there's no way to get rid of it. Bring only as much as we'll need, and a little extra.

I brought everything I needed to make cookies while on the playa, and although none of the cookies turned out, the cookie dough was tasty, and the ingredients were useful for helping out others. I'll talk about cookies in a separate post, but relevant here is that I was happy that I brought flour, white and brown sugar, baking powder, salt, vanilla, butter, and eggs. One person wanted some salt for making ice cream (they wanted rock salt but used the table salt I had) and another person wanted baking soda for making a cake. There's no need to bring tons of these things but a few small canisters of flour, sugar, and the like nicely stocks a kitchen. It should all fit in one 18 quart tub. That's also a good rule: if it can't fit in the tub then it doesn't get to be brought along.
Tags: burning man
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