Ital stems from the word vital and is a reflection of the Rastafarian practice of placing the character “I” in front of a syllable for emphasis. Jamaican Ital cooking means essential to human existence and is the use of pure, natural, and clean food. The following are eight things to know about Jamaican Ital cooking.
1. In its purest application, Jamaican Ital excludes the use of ingredients such as meat, salt, colorings, flavorings, and preservatives. Rastafarian dietary laws are very similar to those of Jews as dictated in Leviticus 11.
2. Ital cooking is essentially traditional Jamaican cooking without meat, salt and additives. Available foods and ingredients are utilized that may include fish and dry salted fish – but not shellfish. In areas outside of Jamaica where traditional ingredients may not be available, Ital cooking makes room for practicality and can include the use of some canned foods.
3. Basic ingredients in Jamaican Ital cooking includes coconut, Scotch bonnet pepper, pimento, and thyme. Garlic, green peppers, tomatoes, onions, and scallions can be added to the basics. It focuses on fresh ingredients.
4. Jamaican Ital cooking often takes the form of one-pot soups and stews.
5. The popularity of Jamaican Ital cooking has expanded beyond the borders of Jamaica. It accommodates vegan lifestyles by using tofu and vegetables not native to Jamaica, enabling people in other countries to prepare food that adheres to Rastafarian principles and has sparked a vegan Rastafarian movement.
6. Jamaican Ital cooking sprang from the Rastas that lived in the hills on the island. It’s cooking that promotes the spirituality of being one with nature and using natural, plant-based ingredients.
7. Knowledge of Ital cooking traveled from ancient Egypt to East Africa, to West Africa, and then to the Caribbean as part of the transatlantic slave trade.
8. Jamaican Ital cooking is a mindful way of cooking and eating that respects life and does no harm to others.
Photo: Deposit Photos