Building Moon Cheese at Burning Man

As I mentioned previously, I went to Burning Man this year looking to contribute significantly to my camp community, especially in the physical effort of setting up the camp.

My camp is named Moon Cheese – last year was our first as a camp, and now this year we were also part of a village with Crossroads (more on that later), and we were placed at 9:00 and A Portal. For anyone not familiar with Burning Man, the city is a large circle with the Man in the middle and the camps surrounding it on the circular roads named A-L (with the most central camps facing the Man on the “Esplanade”) and on radial roads from 2:00 through 10:00, like a clock. You can see the official Burning Man map here.

Our placement was central to the nightlife at Burning Man, as we were facing the Esplanade and bordering the 9:00 plaza, where I think a lot of the larger night-focused camps are placed. This was perfect for us because our camp gives back to the Burning Man community by making grilled cheese sandwiches and handing them out to as many hungry burners as possible from 10pm-2am.  It also meant we had a great view of the 9:00 promenade and the Man.

DSC_0243I arrived at our camp just in time to help unload the truck and get everything started.

DSC_0246We had around 20 people (of our 90 person camp) that had arrived early to help and most got started right away on the shade structure (which you can see in the background to the right of the picture below) or the kitchen/dining area canopies (foreground).

DSC_0248It was around this point when I realized that having something as simple as access to shade was very important, and not something I ever thought I’d have to work for. While we were able to spend time during the day huddled in the small amount of shade cast by the truck during breaks, we needed a large shade structure set up by nightfall to avoid getting woken up by the brutal sunlight and heat that tents are comically bad at blocking out. Even under the shade structure my tent would consistently be too hot and bright to even consider sleeping in during the day.

For daytime avoidance of the sun and napping, we assembled a geodesic dome with partial shading, which was eventually filled with hammocks and carpets.

DSC_0261Here are the finished structures, after two days work:

DSC_0264 DSC_0269On top of our personal living areas of the shade structure, dome, and kitchen/dining area, we had devoted 1/3 of our camp’s real estate facing the 9:00 road to a serving area for grilled cheese. This included for set up: playa-tech couches, cheese wedge pillars, lights, and an entire Nevada-State-Health-Department-Temporary-Food-Establishment-Permitted kitchen, with two large grills devoted entirely to making grilled cheese sandwiches for the public. Here is the early-stage of the building process, with the parts waiting to get assembled.

DSC_0245Here is the finished public-facing kitchen and dining area:

DSC_0280This year we were also part of a village with our neighboring camp, Crossroads. Last year we were randomly placed next to them and the synergy between grilled cheese and a live 20 piece funk band was amazing, so we wanted to do it again. While a lot of the structures of our camp were separately assembled (they built and entire stage from scratch which was amazing to witness), our village community was united and I feel so much pride being a part of the whole 200 person experience.

Here are some pictures of their construction, going on parallel to ours:

DSC_0250DSC_0252The finished stage:

DSC_0273At night, we drew huge crowds and kept them happy with food and music. Our final estimate based on bread supplies consumed was that we made 11,000 servings total over the week. I ate at least 12 of those.

I feel so lucky to have been a part of making Crossroads and the Moon Cheese Grill!