Jo Lampson and David Gopie show off the lunch's philosophy.
Jo Lampson and David Gopie show off the lunch's philosophy. DEIRDRE SMITH

Meet and eat at lentil lunch

THERE is no menu at Stanthorpe's most casual restaurant. And no prices either.

Everybody sits around one table and after the main dish, which might be couscous or lentil curry studded with five different types of vegetables, a dessert like a low-sugar nut loaf will be placed in the centre and everybody helps themselves.

Three times a week, on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, Sally Gebbett sets up her pots outside the Community Op Shop in The Alley and everybody is welcome to have a meal. If you can pay $5, you do while $10 will also pay for a meal for somebody who can't afford it.

Sally was inspired by the restaurant, Lentil as Anything is Sydney, which also works on a donation system. Her ideas are not just to feed people but to give them a sense of community as well.

Dion Cicchitti comes regularly with his wife, who is also a Sally and says his day 'revolves around this'.

"I saw the flyers around town and I thought it was too good to be true,” he said.

"Now I plan my trips into town around it.”

Sally started off last year by offering a vegetarian Christmas lunch to anybody who was interested and then later set up on an ongoing basis at the Community Garden at the old train station. However, after a month the cold and the lack of foot traffic around the location got her moving indoors to The Alley, which was a natural fit as many people who visited the op shop were also likely to benefit from her lunches.

She has been there since April and is determined to rack up at least a six-month tenure to 'make sure I'm giving it a go'.

Apart from feeding people, Sally wants them to learn about food. A vegetarian herself for the last 15 years, her training as a nurse means she has an interest in health and wellbeing.

"You don't have to eat truffle on asparagus sauce,” she said.

"You can eat well for 20 cents per day if you know what you're doing.”

And she also sees that food is all about community, providing a place where people who have few other outlets can get together and talk. Working together with the Community Op Shop, she would like to see an adjoining empty shop set up as a café, to provide job skills training.

"I don't have all the answers,” she said.

"The solutions are in community, in being together, the solutions will come.”

And the final motivation is that it gives her satisfaction. A student of Buddism, she believes that after the basics of food and shelter are met, most joy in life comes from sharing.

"People think I'm an angel,” she said.

"But I'm doing this for myself as much as for everyone else.”

And while she is hopeful of the success of her Lentil Health lunches, she stresses that it is a team effort, with many others being involved in the Community Gardens and Op Shop as well.

Sally lives on a large block 25 minutes from Stanthorpe and initially, she thought that the vegetables would come from her own large garden. But the drought put paid to that and she now relies on donations with one man giving her 'a ton of pumpkins and capsicums', while others chipped in with pine nuts and spices. Any food that can be used immediately or stored is welcome, she said, as she lives off-grid 'and the fridge in my van takes a lot of power'.

She's also a keen belly-dancer and thinks that a performance might be next on the agenda.