Sunday, January 20, 2013

Burning Man Stories: Sunday Breakfast BBQ on the open playa


Saturday night was an all-nighter for me that year.  I partied and danced at clubs all night.  I knew I had a heavy day of work to face the next day: the camp tear-down, including the packing up of my dome, always a bitter symbol of the end of my burn.  So I was going to make the most of Burn night, ending up at the 10:00 corner of the Esplanade, where the Root Society, a large sound camp, provided beats and jams until the dawn began to break.

Dancing to techno.
Root Society's main dome

A large art-car in the shape of an old reel-to-reel tape player was parked outside, as I wandered to my bike and began to pedal home in the cold morning breeze.  That breeze blew right in my face as I pedaled up the Esplanade towards camp.  I was fatigued from the nights' dancing, and pedalling into a strong, chilly headwind effectively arrested my progress.

Reel-to-reel tape player car

Breaking dawn in BG

Deciding on a detour, I pulled off the road towards the open playa, towards a small circle of benches and fire pits just sitting out in the open.  Some of the fires were repurposed ovens which were tipped up and filled with burning logs.  Others were metal mushrooms with piles of burning logs on top.  People sat nearby on raggity couches, thick wooden logs, and camp chairs.  I pulled up and sat on a log near a mushroom fire, the warmth and comfort feeling tremendous in the bright cold early morning.  Nearby, a tall metal sculpture rose up, with a small platform for someone to stand on about six feet up.  People were mellow, chatting quietly and just enjoying the fire. 

One couple started walking around nearby, both wearing long thick fur robes and red striped pants underneath, with some lines of paint on their faces.  The man kept pulling items out of the bed of a truck parked nearby; this was apparently their little camp setup.  Moving sluggishly, as clearly he'd tied one on the night before, he arranged what looked like vents in a square around the fire on top of the mushroom.  This created a level platform on which he placed a large pan.  He did this with a few of the fires, and was soon scraping congealed fat off a wok.  A young woman was standing on the platform of the sculpture and when the robed gentleman jokingly offered her a knife full of the solid white grease, she scooped up a fingerful and stuck it right in her mouth.  That got an amused reaction from the man. 

Soon, the pans on the fires were hot, and the guy pulled out a large package of bacon.  That went into the wok and made a tantalizing sizzle.  He opened two cans of spam and shook their contents into a pan.  Another wok he cracked a dozen eggs into, and a hunk of steak began to sear in another pan.  His girlfriend helped turn the various meats as he used an ornate buck knife to slice up the spam.  Then a whole bottle of honey was poured over the spam, which bubbled up and smelled glorious.  He sprinkled some herbs and spices on the eggs, which became a huge omelet.  I believe there were other meat dishes cooking too, but I don't recall them all.

Throughout all this activity, the small crowd merely watched, just a bit incredulously.  I was assuming this couple was preparing breakfast for a group of their friends that would be arriving shortly.  I barely dared to hope that I would get to taste some of the delicacies cooking before me.  The robed gentleman set down a bag of hot dog buns, pulled one out and stuffed some bacon in it.  He took a bite, before turning to the crowd, mumbling something to the effect of, "Well, are you guys gonna have some?"  Surprised expressions of "Really?", "Serious?", were heard, and then he said, logically, "Yeah!  I can't finish all o' this." 

I didn't need any clearer invitation and jumped up to grab a bun and tucked some bacon into it.  Hot meat right off the pan was amazingly good right at that moment.  The honey-glazed spam ended up being the highlight of the breakfast.  Who could resist the combination of fat, sugar and salt?

The smell of bacon wafts far across the open playa, and soon enough, a little buzzing art scooter pulled up, made up as a mushroom, four people crowded onto the attached standing platform.  The hipster driver shouted out as he pulled near "Your camp sucks!"  This was not belligerence, but said endearingly, with a smile, and was received in that spirit.  The new arrivals debarked and made their way to the feast, greeted by our host.

I had eaten enough, though I didn't try everything.  Warmed and refreshed, I hopped back on my bike and made my way up towards center camp for some coffee.

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