Ital is Vital


If you’re even a casual listener of reggae music, there’s no doubt that you’ve heard the word “Ital” mentioned at one time or another. Ital has been translated from Jamaican patois slang as “pure,” and that’s appropriate, especially when taking into account that Ital is usually mentioned in connection with food or cooking.

So what is Ital food? Simply put, Ital food is organic, non-processed food from the earth (that is, vegetarian, by most definitions). “Ital is vital” best summarizes the Rastafarian belief that pure food from the earth is the most physically and spiritually beneficial. Interestingly, while table salt is not considered Ital because of the chemical processing it undergoes, ganja (marijuana) is considered Ital since it is smoked in its natural state. Even more, ganja is considered as an holy herb that can be used in pretty much any recipe.

An Ital diet is nearly vegan (some recipes contain honey as an optional sweetener) and prohibits tobacco (because of the heavy processing), alcohol, and other drugs. Milk is referred to as “white blood” (Rastafari Selassie I Center, Finland) and is therefore not included in an Ital diet.

So, no milk, no flesh, no processing… the recipes must be bland, right? If you’re visiting the Veg Blog, you’re probably well aware of how satisfying vegetarian meals can be. Indeed, Ital dishes often contain a variety of herbs and spices as well as a wide range of exotic fruits and vegetables. While some of these may be hard to hunt down if you’re not on a Carribean island, others are readily available to be cooked up “inna Ital stylee.”

A good place to start looking at Ital recipes is online, through one of the links below. As far as cookbooks go, there’s only one that I know of, and that is The Rasta Cookbook: Vegetarian Cuisine Eaten With the Salt of the Earth, compiled in 1993 by Laura Osborne. The eggplant dish is especially good.

Ital Links

Earth Culture Roots
Click on “Ital recipes” on the right side (it uses frames and doesn’t allow direct links). Contains a good number of ital vegan recipes.

An active, quality discussion list that focuses on ital/raw vegan food as well as the Rasta lifestyle.
A series of recipes in several categories: Drinks, Soups, Porridge, Main Courses, Breads and Cakes

Ital cooking – necessity or religious fervor?
A lengthy article about why Ital cooking may have been born more out of necessity rather than religious ideology.

Root Nattie: Ital is Vital Discussion/Reasoning Forum

Rastafari Selassie I Center, Finland

Canned or frozen veggies just as nutritious

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From VegRD: Do Canned or Frozen Veggies Lack Nutrients? The answer: surprisingly, not really. And in some cases, like with carrots, nutrients are more easily absorbed from canned vegetables! Who woulda’ thunk it…

New recipe: Nearly Instant Beefy Chili

Ms. Atlas gave me permission to reprint the aforementioned chili recipe, so here you go.

As you can see, it’s quite simple and requires a minimal amount of ingredients, but the end result is a nice, hearty dish with some kick to it.

A trip to the health food store

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I made a trip to Healthy by Nature this weekend and realized that this is out of the several health food stores I stop in once or twice a month, that it’s the only one that employs mainly younger workers. It’s good to see that it’s not just stereotypical “hippie-granola” types (whatever that means), but everyday high school and college aged kids that are working there. One guy I met this weekend is probably about 19 or 20. He’s a vegan and is into death metal (he commented on the Soilent Green shirt I was wearing)… kind of an interesting mix.

One product I picked up during my trip was Tofutti’s “Better Than Cream Cheese,” a dairyless cream cheese alternative that is mighty tasty. I bought the chive flavor, but added a few fresh chives to the mix when I got home. I’m happy to report that it definitely passed the bagel test.

And today I was pretty psyched to find Sumac at a Persian market near my work. It added a nice flavor to the Fatoosh that I made, despite the fact I didn’t have a couple of the ingredients on hand, and therefore had to improvise a bit.

Now that I have some Sumac, I think I may try out a vegan variation on Sumac-Garlic Mayonnaise. I also picked up some Fava beans, so if anyone has any recipe suggestions for those, I’m listening.

Sarah’s Vegetarian Page

Worth checking out: Sarah’s Vegetarian Page. Sarah’s been vegetarian for almost 11 years, starting when she was 12. She discusses her reasons and issues she’s encountered in the process. There are also a handful of links at the bottom of the page. (by way of Cat)