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.
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.