Author: Rhea Parsons
I love so many different ethnic cuisines, especially those with rice and spice, that sometimes it’s hard for me to choose a favorite. However, if a genie told me I could have any one cuisine placed in front of me right now, it would take me no time to choose – Jamaican food. Jamaican food, and in particular, Ital food, is my absolute favorite cuisine. Jamaican cuisine has been influenced by many cultures including Spain, China, India, Africa, Europe and the Middle East, which means there are a large variety of ingredients, spices and flavors.
Many Jamaican dishes have meat or fish, but Ital cuisine is usually vegetarian or vegan. Developed by Rastafarians, Ital food is a natural way of cooking that tries to avoid processed food, additives, oil, salt and sugar. The word Ital comes from the English word “vital” with the initial syllable replaced by the letter “i” to signify unity with nature. While Ital food and recipes may vary greatly, the common goal is to increase “levity” or the life energy believed to be within all living beings. Therefore, food should be as natural and pure as possible. The decision to eat Ital food may be a spiritual one, a health-related one or one concerned with animals. Whatever the reasons, Ital food and Jamaican food in general are delicious. Since I no longer live near any Jamaican or Ital restaurants, I had to learn how to make my own food. Here I will share some of the most common ingredients, dishes and recipes I have learned so you, too, can enjoy making your own Jamaican food at home.
1. Aromatics, Herbs and Spices
Jamaican food is rich in flavor with aromatics, herbs and spices such as cayenne, paprika, garlic, onion, scallions, black pepper, oregano, ginger, nutmeg and allspice. Allspice or pimento is made up of the dried berries of the pimento plant, which is native to Jamaica. The pimento berry has the flavor and aroma of a combination of cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper which is how it got the name “allspice.”
“Rasta Mokko’s Ital Soup parts 1 thru 4”