Wholefoods Cafe, 2 Baylie Place, Geelong. Phone: 5221 5421
Spending some time in Wholefoods Cafe in Geelong is, for me, like being in an echo chamber.
Long before I plonked myself down in Melbourne, I had immersed myself in a sort-of hippie scene that started in Dunedin during my school days, was nurtured in London even as many of us were simultaneously embracing punk rock and its more caustic love children, and became firmly entrenched in Wellington.
Truth is, almost all my mates were and are too young to claim true hippie status, but we ran with it anyway.
Yoga was big – or, in my case, tai chi and a deep involvement in Tibetan Buddhism that has continued to have profound influence on my approach to life long after I became disenchanted with the baggage that went with it.
Patchouli oil was hot and the pretty much the whole gang – of both genders – sported hairy armpits and legs.
The parties were wild.
It was during this time that I started my long love affair with Indian vegetarian cooking.
It is no doubt extremely immodest of me to say so, but my recollections are that my efforts in that regard were far better than what was generally being eaten.
The food was awful!
Brown rice casserole, anyone?
We cooked with woks, but in our utter and complete ignorance, would chop up the onion, throw it in the wok, then chop up the next vegetable, throw that in … and so on.
The results were, as you can imagine, nothing like the flash-fired wok food we all eat today.
More like mucky, mushy stews … edible is about the best that could be said.
But mostly the memories are fond, so I have no hesitation about wallowing in the nostalgic vibe Wholefoods Cafe summons up in me.
It starts with the mandala signage outside and continues inside with the lovely burnished and creaky wooden floors and the wholefoods takeaway section out back.
The noticeboards have signs for share accommodation, budgies and zumba.
But – oh yes! - there’s all sorts of people flogging the likes of reiki, shamanic hoop drumming, meditation of various kinds, compassion exercises and worthy causes and belief systems too numerous to list.
(Time out here as Kenny cranks up a Grateful Dead CD …)
The deja vu continues with the menu:
Thus it is that in a happy and reflective mood – and, for once, with time to spare in a Geelong working day lunch break – that I look forward to my meal.
Moreoever, having scoped the place out some time ago, I am intent on sampling their “dahl”.
Regular visitors will know that I am never happy about paying upwards of $10 or more for a bowl of lentils when we do such a fine job of cooking them and their pulse cousins various ways at home.
But today I’m relaxed about that, too.
I am expecting a bowl of hippie-style dal (mildly seasoned, unoily) – as opposed to Indian-style-dal (highly seasoned, oily).
Here, customers order at the counter.
The wait seems long, but maybe that’s because I’m standing and the staff seem very busy.
Given my number and taking a seat at one of the communal tables, another longish wait ensues, but I’m happy reading the various newspapers on hand.
What I get for my lunch is a $9 bowl of … hippie-style dal with trimmings.
It’s lovely – and just what I expected and desired.
The dal is smooth and goes down easy.
The yogurt is creamy and even the smear of what I think is commercial chutney works a treat.
The pappadam is crunchy and grease-free.
It’s been more years than I can recall since I had brown rice, but here its nuttiness is the perfect foil for the rest of my meal.
Wholefoods – cafe, shop and catering – has been around for what I am told is “decades”.
These days it’s an arm of Diversitat, so is deeply embedded in its community, offering training and cooking courses and the like.
If I lived locally, it’d be a regular part of my routine … for all sorts of different reasons.