Kees and Thys, a couple of “flying” Dutchmen, camped next to us. One tiny tent, one skimpy dome, intermittent shade, and a whole lot of love. Like me, they had a bad habit of getting up at dawn and cooking breakfast. Around Friday, they invited me over to share a huge pan of meat they were cooking. I grabbed some juice boxes and walked over to the luscious smell of artichoke heart turkey sausages. My own rations were down to the “just add water” variety and solid food in a pan (with butter!) was extremely appealing.
Thys, the chef du soleil, was cooking the meat quite slowly for a very, very long time. Enticed by, and eager for, yummies I commented on the protracted preparation. Kees explained that as the week slowly expired, so did their ice reserves. And with this, their food supplies. To more effectively make his point, he opened up their cooler—now a soupy matrix of gray slime and floating matter—and began inventorying their stock. Out came a dripping, half-used wheel of Gouda; two-thirds of a green pepper with black edges; something akin to potatoes; half a stick of butter; and various fruit impersonators. By now, Thys was serving the sausage on a plate, on a lid, and from the pan. Being the guest, I was presented with the plate (fine manners on the Playa, always!). This is when Thys enlightened me as to the state of the cooler encapsulated meat. “The sausage was smelling pretty bad, so we thought it was time to eat it. I cooked it a long time to try to kill it.” Internalizing a cringe, the best I could say was, “Oh.”
Time to think: This is bordering on madness! All their food turned days ago! The desert is a terrible place to get food poisoning! But…I want turkey. All right…hmmm… heat kills bacteria. Thys cooked this forever. There was logic to this madness. And, above all, I didn’t want to be impolite.
After insuring that there was nothing wiggling, I raised the bounty to my lips and took a bite. Oh, God was it good! Images of Playa stomach pumping and medivac rescue scrambled from the fore to the back of my mind. Looking up, the three of us chewed and grinned at each other with a slightly wild look in our eyes. I was savoring their gift and hospitality wholly, suckling the liquor of life through the teat of a sausage link, and marveling at my lack of faith in the blessings the desert provides.
Perhaps it was the community enacted through sharing, or the bond of taking a risk and succeeding, or just the power of the early morning desert light, but for all of the magic that I was privy to that week, this simple and earthy moment remains one of my favorites from my first Burn.
(Oh, I never got sick—of course!)
by Bucky Brian