Mention this article when you next visit Pickle in the Middle and your coffee or iced latte is on us! 

While paleo, sugar free, clean eating and other diet fads fill our Instagram pages and Facebook feeds, an Adelaide cafe is quietly serving up its own food philosophy – a DIY approach to wholefoods that anyone can adopt, and which is inherently better for you.

The hidden truth of food fads

The small scale, hand-made menu at Unley café Pickle in the Middle has been enthusiastically received by dedicated locals and reflects the owner’s beliefs that the rise of diet fads in recent decades has contributed to a difficult relationship between consumers and the food they eat.

Karah Hogarth said the trend was being driven by the delivery of selective information, sometimes championed by reputable personalities, creating an environment of misinformation and partial understanding among consumers.

Her answer has been to deliver an experience dedicated to a less complicated approach to eating, based on freshness, wholefoods and understanding how your food has evolved to the point where it ends up on your fork or spoon.

“Food fads can be a very superficial way of engaging with and eating food. They often lack complexity and overlook the value of eating broadly and for variety,” Karah said.

“If you go down the path of following these fads you’re cutting out whole food groups, which is not sustainable in the long-term or healthy.

“We encourage people to make decisions for culinary reasons, and that’s a philosophy we bring to the food at our café.”

Karah used a recent food trend to highlight her point – the desire among consumers for non-diary alternatives like almond milk – where there is a significant lack of understanding about what’s actually in store-bought products.

“It has about 2% almonds, there’s thickeners, emulsifiers – it comes from half way around the world – and is so much more processed than the cows milk we use from the Fleurieu Peninsula,” she said.

“Most of the items that you buy from supermarkets or many cafés have undergone such a long course of processing on their journey to you – but it doesn’t have to be that way.

“That’s why, where possible, we buy ingredients in a raw form to produce the final product.

“Take for example our mixed nut milk. At the moment we’re using almonds, macadamias and cashews, with almonds we buy directly from a supplier in South Australia’s Riverland.

“The two other ingredients in the milk are filtered water and organic dates, which add some sweetness. We use this milk in our iced lattes and smoothies.

“With our nut milk, because there are no added emulsifiers, when we steam the milk it separates so it can’t be used in hot coffee.

“It’s a challenge because we know nut milk lattes are on trend in brunch cafes – but we want to educate our customers that store-bought nut milk is not the wholefoods alternative they think it is.”

An underground approach to the menu

Before entering the café industry, Karah worked in universities, but was passionately interested in food and cooking, interests which she has now brought to life in the food philosophies at Pickle in the Middle.

Pickle in the Middle opened in January 2015 and has remained committed to its founding principles, bucking the trends of cutting out specific food groups, following food fads or adding items to the menu – just because the café next door has it.

Head chef Joel van Bussel has played a leading role in shaping the menu at Pickle.

“We don’t do run-of-the-mill bacon and eggs, and quite a few dishes are vegan or vegetarian, so from an outsider’s point of view they may say we’re following trends, but we’re actually trying to engage on a more sustainable level, it’s all about what you’re eating and where the food comes from,” he said.

“The focus is on nourishing, plant-based dishes and then we add environmentally sustainable proteins such as free-range eggs, smoked chicken, ham and kangaroo mettwurst.

“We’re staying true to our philosophy, what we believe in and doing it our own way – it’s definitely an anti-establishment approach to current brunch menus.”

So what’s on the menu?

“Our menu is different to the average brunch café, there’s definitely not 25 versions of eggs on toast,” Joel said.

“Many people find that when they’re scanning our menu and there’s no eggs benedict or avocado on toast, it forces them out of their comfort zone.”

Ingredients made in-house include coconut yoghurt served with macadamia buckwheat granola, seasonal fruit and ginger syrup.

The signature toastie is a favourite. The focaccia bread made from scratch is fermented overnight and has a unique depth of flavour. Between the crunchy-toasted bread uncover melted cheese complimented with the crisp, zingy flavour of the mustard zucchini pickles – pickled in house, of course.