Matty (left) with Lentil As Anything pals.
Lentil As Anything, 231 Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 9689 9784
You all know the drill about Lentil As Anything – pay as you go, or pay as you deem it worthy, or pay what you can … if you can.
The place has been through some well-publicised downs and ups, but seems to be hanging in there.
The reason it hasn’t become a regular for us relates strongly to a couple of rather ordinary meals we had there early in the piece.
Bennie, in particular, has a displayed a profound unwillingness to entertain the idea of a return visit.
For my part, not warming to the place has more to do with the sheer, overwhelming plainness of the food I’ve had there – this just doesn’t click with tastebuds used to the supercharged seasoning of all the other places we habituate, and moreover it all reminds me of vegetarian food nightmares.
And that’s a shame, because in terms of community engagement, Lentil As Anything is darn brilliant and the seasoning tactics reflect the place’s umbrella philosophy.
So with a brief shopping visit to Little Saigon Market dispensed with, it’s time for another look.
I’m rapt to be able to put together an Asian-themed plate with ease – and there’s seasoning to spare.
And this means I don’t have to mess with other offerings, such as coleslaw, sweet potato and pineapple salad, baked macaroni.
Dal – smooth and delicious with onion texture and a nice chilli kick
Spiced beans – lukewarm-turning-cold, but nice and crunchy if a bit stringy at times. There’s a nice chilli zing here, too.
Potato and bottle gourd salad – not as snappy as its companions on my plate, but quite acceptable.
Overall, it’s a fine lunch – and with seasoning and spice levels that could see me becoming a more regular visitor.
It’s as I’m completing my eating and looking to snap a few interior photos that I run in to an old mate from my Sunday Herald Sun days, Matty the photographer.
I am utterly amazed to learn he has been volunteering at Lentil As Anything for a couple of years and even occasionally working at the Ethiopian joint next door.
Equally surprising seems the fact we haven’t crossed paths before now in the west.
Matty and I, like most of our then colleagues, played the newspaper game very hard in every kind of way, most of them extremely unhealthy.
Yet here he is, deeply embedded in Footscray and seemingly happy as all get out to be so profoundly connected to the community.
He talks with pride of the work Lentil As Anything does and we share a moment of wry reflection on how what seemed so very important then seems of so very little account in our new lives.
It’s been good to see you, brother!