Here's how 70,000 people are dining in the desert

By Charlie Heller
Updated September 01, 2017
Grant Kaye / Getty Images

Burning Man is here, which means over 70,000 people have descended upon Nevada's Black Rock Desert to create Black Rock City, a "temporary metropolis" dedicated to art and community. Best known for its huge art installations, themed camps, modified "mutant vehicles," and the Mad Max-meets-Woodstock vibe of costumed attendees, the week-long encampment began August 27 and will run until September 4, when it will conclude with the ceremonial burning of "the Man," a giant wooden effigy that gives the event its name.

Like any city, Black Rock boasts its own unique culinary system. Burning Man's lack of running water and electricity means people must bring their own ingredients, cooking supplies, and storage methods, with groups often setting up communal kitchens. Longtime "burners" recommend stocking up on ingredients that are easy to store and prepare like rice, dried beans and lentils, falafel mix, oatmeal, and granola, and emphasize the importance of having enough salt, protein, and water. Though with a totally-gift based economy—no buying or bartering allowed—you can also dine free at a variety of chefs' culinary camps and pop-up restaurants around the city.

Here's what people are doing to dine at Burning Man right now:

1. Building a dumpling stand in the shape of a container: Crowdfunded on Kickstarter, Camp Catmandu goes against Burning Man's usual outside the box thinking with this giant, takeout container-shaped dumpling stand.

2. Touring the Black Rock French Quarter: Burners can head to (or live in) the Black Rock French Quarter, which brings New Orleans' French Quarter to the desert. Camps within the area include a communal bakery, a desert vineyard, and a massive gumbo pot made up of rotating food donations.

3. Coconut oiling up: For once, olive oil is not to the go to. Coconut oil isn't just great for cooking, but, according veterans, great for moisturizing dry, weathered skin, and detangling hair after a long day of self-actualizing.

3. Getting those good hydrations: Burning Man's official site recommends drinking at least 1.5 gallons of water per day, and stresses using the right storage. Some used containers can retain the flavor of old drinks, which, while safe, will make your water taste worse, and make you less likely to drink enough.

4. Staying cooler-ed: The increasing presence at Burning Man of tech elites including Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk, who can fly in and out and of the desert and hire private guides, has caused controversy at the gift-based community in recent years. After all, they probably aren't lugging around the thousands of coolers campers use to store everything from basic ingredients to frozen meals.

5. Making dal: Made from lentils, this Indian staple is simple to make even the in the desert, packs a ton of flavor, and will easily meet many campers' vegetarian or vegan needs.

6. Getting a Reno burrito: One burner recommends grabbing a burrito in Reno on the way to night one, since it's easy to get too exhausted by setting up to want to cook dinner.

7. Planning No-Cook Meals: With a week of festivities in the hot desert, there will probably be more than a few times burners don't feel like heating up some food.

8. Carrying Coconut Water: Like regular water, it hydrates, but unlike water, it doesn't need to be cold to taste good. Also unlike water, it tastes like coconut.