|How to Stay Raw Vegan at Burning Man—Or While Traveling Anywhere|
|Sunday, 19 August 2012 00:00 | Written by Tonya Kay | Blog Entry|
"I used to be vegetarian… and then I went on vacation."
I've heard this 'travel excuse' for dropping one's dietary dedications more often than any other. It's as if there are aggressive kamikaze cows that fly into one's mouth when one ventures outside the safety of one's own country, region, state, city or even kitchen.
It's hard for me to understand because I went vegan while touring with Kenny Rogers, and I went raw while touring with STOMP. Both of these scenarios make the "I started eating meat on vacation" excuse seem pretty weak. And they don't explain why the folks making this excuse continued eating animal products (or cooked food in a raw-fooder's case) when they were no longer traveling. If people redirected the energy they put into maintaining their excuses toward developing solutions, they would be absolutely unstoppable!
So when I’m asked by well-intentioned idealists, "How do you stay raw on the Burning Man playa?" I squelch my initial smart-ass response of "Don't eat anything cooked—that's how you stay raw." Instead I take it as a sign that these fellow idealists are putting their energy where their intentions are, and sincerely trying to find solutions before they arrive.
The key is preparation. Here are my five steps to staying raw vegan at Burning Man:
1. Don't eat cooked food or animal products. Forgive me—I couldn't resist! But it’s true. Staying raw vegan on the playa is like staying raw vegan at home; if you don't want to eat cooked food or animal products, then don't. Decide right now. Announce your intention out loud to the universe and your campmates, so they can support you. Announce it out loud to yourself. After all, one packs in all one’s own food, water and shelter to the playa—if you don't want to camp in an RV, then bring a yurt, if you know what I mean. Apply that logic to your raw-vegan diet.
2. Join a supportive camp. If you don't want to make your own food, but still want to stay true to your raw-vegan lifestyle, then you will have to find a like-minded camp. The 24 Hour Kitchen is a group of passionate vegan and raw-food chefs who will be preparing meals at Sacred Spaces Village. For a fee, you can purchase meals for the entire week or a number of individual meals per day when it suits you.
VegCamp is an animal-rights camp serving vegan food from its kitchen, screening films that examine the use of animals in our society and hosting the Ask-A-Vegan booth interactive art installation.
You don't have to find and join an established camp to be a part of a vegan kitchen, though. You can create your own community kitchen with others sharing your health and ethics perspective. Every year on the night of the Burn, I fire dance in the honorable Fire Conclave with the Pyronauts fire-performance troupe. The Pyronauts host a vegan community kitchen as well as offer fire-flow jams, fire classes and all-things-fire social life. Vatra, the stunning and talented Pyronauts director, is a raw vegan himself. You can find the Pyronauts camp in Entheon Village.
3. Bring your own damn food. Unless you join a camp or community kitchen, you pack in your food anyway. This is really your chance to cater to yourself and your own dietary desires. The climate at Burning Man is among the harshest in the world. When you arrive, you will see that nothing grows in this desert thanks to the temperature extremes, aridity and high alkalinity of the dried lake-bed soil. And when I say nothing grows here, I mean nothing—no sage brush, no Joshua trees, no succulents of any variety. This desert is one of the most challenging climates for any life form in the world. So yes, fragile greens and other fresh foods perish quickly, as does human vitality.
I do not advocate taking fuel-generated refrigerators or air-conditioned RVs to Burning Man, so I substitute a gigantic cooler filled with ice on day one. You can expect your cooler's ice to keep for almost two days if stored in shade. This means that for the first two days, a raw vegan can eat as usual: hearty greens, water-rich vegetables, prepared raw patés, etc. Throw in a few Thai coconuts and your machete if you want to get gourmet.
When the ice is gone, a raw vegan can subsist on fruits that better tolerate the heat. Apples, melons and grapes will become your best friends. One needs a lot of water intake on the playa and these foods are full of it. Plus, they all do pretty well if stored in the shade with plenty of air circulation.
I also bring avocados, lemons and salt for a daily guacamole vat with cucumber slices for raw-vegan chips. I find the minerals in my hand-dried Hawaiian sea salt help keep my head on and keep my internal waters balanced. And avocados digest like a fruit instead of a fat, as opposed to nuts—even germinated ones—which is desirable in this hot climate. On the other hand, nuts keep well. So as the week goes on and the heat takes its toll on the fresher foods, you might find that consuming Brazil nuts and pumpkin seeds after you’ve germinated them for a few hours really helps curb your appetite.
Flax crackers and other dehydrated raw-vegan foods survive well if they are thoroughly dried. Seaweeds rehydrate for an immediate mineral-rich meal. I try to think like a vegetable and bring a wide range of foods with varying life expectancies. Your diet may not be as fresh as it is in Southern California, but since you won’t be there, be thankful for the raw-vegan foods you get to enjoy…and remind yourself that you are just visiting an otherwise barren locale. Be grateful!
4. Commit to 90% raw ideals. I actually go by the "high raw" philosophy rather than the 100% philosophy every day. From my experience, people bent on 100% raw foods are either really hardcore all the time naturally or beginners who think they have "found the light" and are actually afraid of slipping off the wagon. Know thyself and consider that, so long as you are 100% vegan, then you can be 80 to 90% raw with great mental and emotional success—at home and at Burning Man.
If you end up eating a few handfuls of roasted/salted almonds at Burning Man, then you don't have to feel like a failure and give up entirely because your identity will still be intact: You will still be a high raw vegan and you will continue to eat high raw the next meal and every meal thereafter. Allow yourself to enjoy a cup of basmati rice with your friends and know that your body will remain healthy because you are so high raw all the time—and this cup of rice is not only a non-threat to your unshakable health, but feeds you in a different way because you are sharing something with your friends. The last thing raw-vegan food should inspire is isolation.
5. You will not die if you do not eat. Burning Man might be a good time for a cleanse! The climate (and entheogens!) naturally suppresses appetite. I rarely have a desire to eat during the day; the heat makes me feel woozy and naturally uninterested in food. Do not force yourself to eat just because back home you always eat at a certain time. Ask yourself if you are even hungry before you shove the food in your mouth. You might not have to make your own raw-vegan meals as often as planned. And you might just decide to allow the climate to guide you into a natural desert cleanse. Also, there are many outlets for receiving non-food-based nutrition on the playa including plentiful drinking water, sun scrying at dawn and dusk, yoga classes, spiritual rituals, dance parties, and your environmental and artistic surroundings. Experiment with taking in life-force energy from things other than food and you might get a good detox as well as learn a little bit about true hunger.
Burning Man is an intense experience, but not one that should transform you into someone who contradicts your core ideals. If you know who you are, and if your raw-vegan lifestyle is a part of that, then there is no vacation, no performance tour, no social dinner party and no Burning Man that will change that. Decide right now that Burning Man is about discovering—not oppressing—yourself. And that goes for diet as much as anything. See you at the Burn!
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