Cooking Ital Jamaica Rasta Roots & Culture

“Never forget your cultural identity it says who you are as a chef.”  Jomo Morris

How would you like to spend the day with a group of holistic Rastafarian’s? Would you like to learn to cook with local herbs and spices? Interested in a diet without salt or chemical additives? Are you curious? What would it taste like? Would you enjoy the mesmerizing sounds of Nyabingi drumming and chanting? Are you feeling adventurous? Leave your shoes behind and journey to the Montego River Valley in Porto Bello, Montego Bay. It will be fun; today we’ll tag along with students from the Hopewell high school in Hanover, St. James. Join me in pictures, where the sun is warm and the smiles genuine. Enjoy Rasta Village Jamaica

What Is Ital Cuisine?

The word Ital (pronounced eye-tal) derives from the English word “vital”, with the initial syllable replaced by the letter I. This is done to many words in the Rastafari vocabulary to signify the unity of the speaker with all of nature. Rastafarians derive their beliefs and morality from intense personal meditations and prayer. The primary goal of adhering to an Ital diet is to increase “Livity”, or the life energy that Rastafarians generally believe lives within all human beings. Rastafarians believe that food should enhance life rather than diminish it. Food should be natural, pure and from the earth. What is Ital is therefore vital.

Ital cuisine uses no salt and avoids food which are chemically modified or contains artificial additives.

People who follow an Ital lifestyle are strict vegetarians. Ital cuisine focuses on the nutritive as well as the medicinal value of food.  This comes from a system of beliefs by practicing Rastafarians that:

  1. Meat is dead, eating it would work against “life energy”.
  2. Human beings are natural vegetarians based on physiology and anatomy.

Ital cooks utilize a variety of ground provisions such as peas, beans, nuts and vegetables which are chemical and fertilizer free. Fish or dried fish can be consumed but not shellfish. Flavor comes from the food itself and the addition of herbs and spices.  An important ingredient to tasty ital cooking is coconut milk, in which food is steeped. In addition to coconut milk, Ital cuisine utilizes the flavor of the Scotch bonnet pepper, onions, scallion, thyme and pimento berries.

An Ital Cuisine Menu – (taken from the Jamaica Daily Gleaner)

Stew: Peas and peanuts, Irish potato, carrot, callaloo, coconut milk, scallion, thyme, pepper, salt, pimento seed.

Sip: It’s called sip, and not soup, as it contains no meat.

Yatty: This is similar to patty but the Rastafarians say yatty as it contains no meat. It is made mainly of peas and beans and flour used for making the crust.

Vegetables: Callaloo, cabbage, carrots.

Processed vegetarian produces: Mince, chunks and tofu.

Peas: Gungo, lentil, round red peas, black eye, split peas but not cow peas. Only the women are allowed to eat red peas as it is said that when men eat red peas it causes their carnality to rise (lust of the flesh).

Sweeteners: Wet sugar, honey and molasses.

Ground provisions: Irish potatoes, bananas, and plantains are some of the few (except those from the vine).

Solids: Flour, rice (white, brown, black or wheat) and cornmeal.

Nuts: Peanuts and almonds.









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