Love at first sight: my Food Co-op experience

by ‘Quote’

If you’re anything like me, maybe you got lost and confused when you first tried to find The Food Co-op in Canberra?! If so, please, join me in this narrative.

Yes, my wonderful I-got-a-little-lost-finding-this-place comrades. We have all been there at the starting point, haven’t we? A little disoriented, a little uncertain at locating this tucked-in-a-corner shop. As for me, it was one epic kilometre crawl under the blazing summer sun of 2019. 

(cue burning hiss)

Long story short, I was invited to join my friend for lunch service duty at The Food Co-op. She was already a volunteer and so invited me to join her since I was looking for meaningful volunteer opportunities. At the time, I did not know about The Food Co-op, but since I was not going to be volunteering alone, I thought it did not hurt to give it a try.

So, the plan was simple – since the café was within walking distance from our residences, my friend and I would meet directly at The Food Co-op on the Saturday afternoon. Pretty straight-forward, right?

Yeah, no. At least not literally. 

Fast forward to a sleepless night and to the Saturday afternoon, I could feel it in my guts, it was going to be a day full of adventures! And boy, was I never more right. 

Now, if you were ever a victim of Google Maps’ direction function, then you would probably understand the pain of, not given the wrong directions, but rather… given the tricky ones. Like making you walk more than a kilometre while crossing unconventional broken pathways and through a closed construction site, only because it was “the fastest route” to the destination. 

All of these while underneath the bare, scorching mercy of the golden daystar.

It did not help that I also got lost and walked around the UniLodge building twice before I finally spotted The Food Co-op.

By the time I reached the café entrance, I was already melting, soaked in my own glorious shower of sweat. I silently prayed that the café had air-conditioning and already had it switched on in full blast, along with a robust ventilation system. Else, God help those poor souls in the café…

But as I braved ahead into The Food Co-op, what greeted me was this picturesque assembly of colours, vivid colours. A red throw pillow caught my attention first, or was it that yellow couch or scarf? Jars – round, cylindrical, tall and short – all lined along the top of a cabinet, glistening under the fluorescent light. And the walls… not a single space was left empty, all filled with paintings of sea creatures and little doodle-monsters. 

Yet what took my breath away was the seemingly old piano, that very one placed right smack in the middle of the space, its edges raw and worn. In an instance, I saw my little self playing the instrument, my chubby fingers clumsily pressing the black and white keys to the tune of Harry Potter’s theme song – smiling, laughing giddily with my brothers.

And for that moment, I was frozen in time. 

Not a sound heard, not a breath lost. That even despite the heat roasting my skin, I did not mind it at all. 

I was captivated.

I thought I was home.

Long after my friend arrived and we had finished our lunch service duty, I was still marvelling at the amazingly homely and heart-warming decor. In fact, I found my second favourite decoration piece rather quickly and it was the Suspended Coffee & Lunch chalkboard. 

To me, suspended coffees were like a myth, something you only heard in the news: a nice bedtime story you tell adults so that they could sleep snugly at night knowing that the world is still a good place. A concept rather bizarre and distant and almost nowhere to be seen.. until the day I stepped into The Food Co-op café.

Ever since then, whenever I was on lunch service duty, I secretly looked forward to witnessing a kind soul ordering that one extra coffee. And if I were in luck, I would be the one to take that very order.

I never looked back since. Even until today, I remain smitten by the lazy yet cosy ambience of The Food Co-op. One could be so easily inspired by the quiet chaos of colours and the ever-friendly working members and volunteers. Also, I later learnt that the café is only a recent addition to The Food Co-op. 

But I am certain many of you Food Co-op lovers would agree with me on this one thing – we sure are glad that the café happened. 

And on my part, getting lost the first time was a small misadventure I had to pay to meet this wonderful space and community. If anything, I learnt that the next time I head to an unknown destination, I should maybe leech onto a reliable local expert to guide me around.

But for now, I am glad those little things happened. They made my first journey a little more… lively.