23 August, 2014

Gluten Free at Burning Man

Remember that you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.
This week I leave for my fourth Burning Man, a week-long arts and music festival in the Black Rock desert north of Reno, NV. Last year I created a special challenge for myself: to make a gluten-free meal plan for the week.

I have started to cut out gluten from my everyday diet but knew it would be even more difficult on the "playa," where extreme temperatures and Leave No Trace kitchens make even typical camp cooking difficult. I did allow myself one exception: if someone offered me food - gluten or no gluten - I allowed myself to eat it. Gifting is a large part of Burning Man and I didn't want to refuse someone's hospitality, especially if I found myself far from my home camp. If I had a serious dietary concern, of course, I would make sure I had gluten-free snacks on me at all times, or be sure to get back to base more often.

For anyone else trying to eat healthier on the playa or looking for good gluten-free options that will work out there, here's a sampling of what I ate last year:
  • Corn chips with Wholly Guacamole -- no preservatives, must keep cold, can be frozen in advance, packaging is recyclable.
  • Avocado -- bring paprika, salt and limes to make your own guacamole or just a dash of salt. Nice to get your electrolytes in. Keep cold so it doesn't spoil.
  • Soft corn tortillas toasted on the grill with cheese and pre-cooked steak strips, topped with gluten-free salsa -- a plastic jug of salsa will be more durable than glass.
  • Nut crackers with tuna -- get the pouches of tuna to reduce waste.
  • Rice crackers with gluten-free, natural peanut butter.
  • String cheese.
  • Yogurt with gluten-free granola.
  • Gluten-free granola and almond milk.
  • Bacon! Lots of bacon!!! -- either pork or turkey bacon, just check the labels for gluten-free.
  • Turkey or beef jerky -- check labels, usually Teriyaki versions contain gluten but depending on the brand, certain flavors may be gluten free.  It's good to get your protein in!
  • Trail mix, either store bought or homemade -- I love almonds and dried cranberries.
  • KIND Fruit & Nut Bars -- a great substitute for granola bars, protein bars, etc. They don't have chocolate so they will keep well even in the heat.
  • Harvest Snapea Crisps. Crunch and lightly salted. Electrolytes are essential on the playa.
  • Pirate's Booty *my favorite* or any other of the Pirate Brands snacks -- I like to get a large bag and separate into my own small ziplock baggies when venturing out to reduce waste, however you may end up eating the whole bag in one sitting that way! The 4-oz individual bags are a good option, remember to take off as much packaging as possible before heading to the desert.
  • Trader Joe's Channa Masala or Madras Lentil boxes -- Indian food that comes in a pouch and can be heated or eaten at room temperature, no refrigeration needed.
  • Pacific Natural Foods Light Sodium Organic Soup, Creamy Tomato -- easy to make, just heat and eat. Sprinkle some nutritional yeast or cheese on top. I always bring a Jetboil to heat liquids as it's small, easy to use, and the pot becomes the cup, which you can then walk around with while enjoying your soup. I got mine at REI but you can also order on Amazon with free 2-day shipping if you're a prime member.
  • Pacific Natural Foods Organic Soup, French Onion -- another easy meal, very satisfying as the sun sets and the temperature drops, or after coming back to camp in the middle of the night when it's freezing out.  I like that these two soups come in boxes as they can be collapsed unlike a canned soup, saving space in the trash bags.
  • Amy's Organic brand soups -- more easy meals, these come in cans so be sure to bring a can opener. It's good to have potatoes, white beans, and and other potassium-rich foods after drinking caffeine or alcohol on the playa.
  • Dried mangoes from Trader Joe's. Dried fruit of any kind. Bananas, apricots, raisins. Also high in potassium.
  • Apples, oranges, lemons, limes.
  • Lots of Gatorade, apple juice, orange juice, coconut water -- can dilute juices with some water for extra H2O, this is how I keep myself hydrated. Freeze everything before you go, it's such a treat to have ice cold drinks during the day.
  • Cucumbers. They don't last long but I love adding a few to a water bottle in the beginning of the week for a refreshing infusion.
  • Teas, instant coffee.
Hope that helped some people preparing to eat gluten-free or mostly gluten-free at Burning Man next week. See you in the dust!

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