When I decided to tackle the subject of I-tal cooking as a theme, I presumed that reporting about the Rastafarian diet would be a novel way to look at the tradition of healthy eating in the Caribbean.
I thought that eating I-tal meant little more than tossing out the salt shaker, eating more vegetables and abstaining from pork.
I was wrong.
To understand how to eat like a Rasta, I had to understand the founding principles of Rastafarianism and how its founders, like Leonard Howell, knew that food was a means of control. (Keep in mind that Jamaica was under British rule at the time and had endured more than 400 years as a colony.)
Knowing that those who controlled the food controlled the freedom, Rastafarians took to the fields and became farmers of their own fate.
With reverence, I paused and turned my attention to one chef who has been waiting for the world to catch up to what he already knows.
“I'm trying to educate and enlighten people about healthy eating,” Troy Levy said. As part of his Rastafarian faith, the 35-year-old chef adheres to a dietary lifestyle that would make even a vegan blush. On top of being animal free, his food must contain no preservatives, chemicals or salt.
I invited him to the Island and Spice test kitchen to show off his skills.
He made two dishes: a coconut milk polenta spiced with Scotch bonnet that was served atop a char-grilled tomato choka and a cauliflower fried rice. His dishes were flavorful and lacked for nothing. (See more of his story here.)
He inspired me to try my hand at eating I-tal. For a few weeks, I found myself cutting back on salt, sugar and meat. I cooked fresh meals, and I sent out regular prayers of gratitude. I also tried to think more positively. In two weeks, I dropped 5 pounds. I felt stronger, more energetic and I was more clear-minded than I had been in years.
As a bit of encouragement to readers who may want to try a food journey of their own, I offer this recipe: a grilled citrus-glazed plantain. The dish is easy to make and fun to serve. And, yes, it tastes as good as it sounds.
Stay tuned because in the coming weeks, we plan to roll out more articles about I-tal cooking.