A Guide to Planning Your Meals and Eating Cleverly at Afrikaburn
So you’re heading out to the desert for Afrikaburn? Awesome, you’re in for a life changing experience. (Don’t know what we’re talking about? Find out here.) You’ve thought about your outfits, you know where you’re going to be sleeping and you’ve planned what’ll be in your sippy cup but have you thought about what you’ll be eating?
Eating is probably low on your list of important things, there’s so much to see and do, who has time for food? But trust us, you’ll want to eat at some point and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be delicious and it definitely needs to be well thought out. You’ll need sustenance to keep you going as you walk kilometres across the dusty kring and really organised people will tell you that prior preparation prevents poor performance, so thinking ahead is key. Performing poorly aside, you need to be smart about what you pack in – remember everything you take has to come home with you, no excuses. So, perhaps that Texan steak swimming in marinade and plastic packaging isn’t the best idea.
The thought of feeding yourself for a good few days with no access to any facilities can be daunting, but it is possible and we’ll show you how. Man cannot live on Nik Nak rolls alone (or so we’ve heard) so gear up, be smart and use your noggins people. With every food choice you make bear in mind these principles of the Burn culture and how they relate to food.
Leave No Trace
As mentioned above, what goes must come back, so be mindful of your choices. That bag of individually wrapped sweets may seem like a fab idea, but a bag of jelly babies might be better. The less MOOP-able stuff around the better.
Radical Self Reliance
You are going to get hungry at some point. Fact. Whether you’re there for 10 days or 2 you’re human, you’ll get hungry. Be your radically reliant self and make sure you have something to tide you over.
Food can be the most wonderful, communal gift of all. Plus if you’re smart, can be MOOP-free and made with love. Think cookies, crunchies, rusks etc. Be mindful though of your fellow burners, keep your food gifts clean and maybe stay away from obvious possible allergens such as nuts.
What’s a road trip without padkos? These Horlicks Crunchies are perfect with cup of tea when you stop at the padstal to have a stretch (please stop and stretch, we need wide awake and rested drivers on the dirt road).
Reason you should: They’re cost effective, seriously easy to make and last well. Oh, and did we mention delicious? Great to gift to fellow burners too.
Did you ever have that childhood experience of opening a box of steaming road trip egg-mayo sarmies in the car? Here’s how to avoid that – Scotch Eggs. These are protein bombs and are tasty as anything. They double up as padkos and smart desert food.
Reason you should: They’ll last for a few days kept chilled in a cooler box. No prep in the desert required, plus no packaging, so no MOOP – win-win.
If you wake up desperate for a cuppa, you’ll no doubt want something to dunk in it. For many folks, a morning java and a killer rusk is the desert breakfast of kings. Of course, you can buy from the store, and if you suck at baking you totally should, but if you’re up for a challenge bake up a batch of these tasty, healthy rusks. Your camp will thank you.
Reason you should: They’re dry, so they’re easy to store – pop in a plastic or tin container and you’re A-for-away. There’s no packaging involved and they’re so delicious that there’s a strong possibility that you won’t have anything to bring back but the box.
Doesn’t that just sound healthy? Well, this one is and it’s so damn delicious. It’s is full of nuts and seeds that are not only tasty but also good for you.
Why you should: Long, hot days and cold nights running around in the dust means you’ll need to fuel your system. Granola is great for breakfast or for a snack in your bag as you head out on a mission.
Tip: Pack in long life milk that comes in small containers. Why? Because you won’t have milk standing open between meals and the Tetra-Pak packaging is recyclable; pop it into your camp’s recycle bin for disposal back home. (What? You don’t have a recycling bin? You need to remedy that ASAP).
Chipotle Honey Kebabs
This tasty recipe is easy to make and can be braaied ahead of time.
Reason you should: Kebabs of any kind are great because they don’t require utensils and all that’s leftover are small wooden sticks that can easily be disposed of. No mess, no fuss.
Tip: Cook and freeze before you go. They’ll defrost naturally and won’t be stinking up your cooler box. Eat cold when fully defrosted, they’ll be just as delicious as when they came off the braai.
This is the ultimate sandwich loaf that requires no prep in the desert. Hollow out the full loaf, use smart ingredients like ham, cheese and pesto which have a lot of flavour. Forgo things like tomato that’ll make the bread soggy, instead fill with roasted peppers and brinjal which will last longer. You could even slice at home and wrap in sandwich paper as a full loaf.
Reason you should: No utensils required and no slicing, cutting or prepping of any foodstuffs in the dust.
When the sun sets over Tankwa it gets cold. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. One of the easiest ways to have a warm meal is to make it before you go and the thing that lasts best? A pre-made frozen curry, soup or stew. Use the same principle mentioned above and freeze it beforehand in a plastic container. Let it defrost gradually in your cooler box until you are ready to eat it. Either heat up in a cast iron pot over a gas bottle or head over to Camp Rust ‘n Dust, where they’ll have fire going as long as weather permits. Bring your own pot to the fire and heat up your numnums good and proper. A warm meal in the belly on a cold night is unbeatable. Make sure you rinse out your container and seal before packing away to take home. Need inspiration? Try this Thai Aubergine Curry or Korma Soup.
Reason you should: It’s all made at home and simply requires warming up. It’s nutritious and filling.
Be smart and debone any meat in your curry so that you can eat until your bowl is completely clean. Or, go vegetarian and forgo the meat altogether.
Don’t make it hot as hellfire. Why? Two words: long drops.
Make extra if you have the means and gift to fellow burners, you’ll make friends for life.
If you have a spot set up for washing up then use re-usable camping bowls and utensils to eat. If you can’t wash up, then be sure to pack in recyclable bowls and utensils. Go easy on the plastic stuff, there’s enough in our landfills already.
Want to gift something? Get creative and bake something. It’s cost effective, will be made with love and is a leave-no-trace kinda gift. We likey.
Further Tips for Your Burn Menu Planning
Be smart with your choices – ask yourself these questions:
‘How will this item fare in the desert heat?’
‘Will there be unnecessary packaging to dispose of?
‘Is there superfluous packaging that I can leave at home before I go?’ I.e. take a sealed packet out of a box and leave the box at home.
‘Can this item melt, spill or start to degrade quickly?’ I.e. Cut and butter rolls before you go and leave the tub at home.
‘How much prep will this require?’ Buy sliced/grated cheese and cold meats that don’t require prep in the desert. Take fruits that don’t leave a sticky mess behind i.e. nix the pineapple and watermelon, take berries, apples and naartjies instead. Make sure all organic material goes into a separate, sealed and clearly marked bin.
Other Helpful Tips
You’ll need drinking water and you’ll also need to keep your perishables cold. Collect 1.5l or 2l plastic bottles ahead of the burn, fill with tap water at home and freeze solid (leave a little room for expansion). Use these instead of ice bricks to keep your cooler box and your perishables cold. The bonus is that as they melt you’ll have cold water to drink. Bonus: less buying of new water bottles, more upcycling of old ones.
Plan your meals with the thought of eating your perishables towards the beginning of your stay. Even with ice being available, things won’t stay frozen or cold forever.
Package your dry food items in a big plastic utility box with a lid. It keeps the dust out, keeps your camp tidy and contains any possible MOOP.
Where possible, take dry goods that won’t degrade quickly.
Donate long-life foodstuffs and dry goods to the DPW before you leave. The food will be appreciated by the guys and gals that remain behind to breakdown at the end of the burn (queue sad pandas all round). Otherwise, it will be distributed to needy causes in the area.
Start as you mean to end. Set up clearly marked bins from day one for recyclables, organic materials and non-recyclables. Word to the wise – make sure your non-recyclables is the smallest bag you take home.
DON’T BE A D**S! Don’t, under any circumstances whatsoever, even think about leaving your trash on the side of the dirt road or anywhere else for that matter. We’ve seen it happen and it’s not acceptable. Not on any level. Not ever.
Most important of all… have fun in the desert. Spread your light and love (and spare food) if you have to everyone you encounter.
AfrikaBurn is a community of participants who come together to create art, burning structures, costume, performance, theme camps, music, mutant vehicles and much, much more. All of this is created through the volunteer culture of the citizens of Tankwa Town in the Karoo once a year. AfrikaBurn’s aim is to be radically inclusive and accessible to anyone. The touchstone of value in our culture will always be immediacy: experience before theory, moral relationships before politics, survival before services, roles before jobs, ritual before symbolism, work before vested interest, participant support before sponsorship.
Nothing is for sale but ice at the event. Nothing. There are no vendors, no advertising or branding. It just doesn’t fit in. It’s not even a barter economy – it’s a decommodified zone with a gift economy that’s about giving without expecting anything in return.