We were given a gift this week. Mom-in-Law bought us a week of dinners from Joy. Joy is a lovely woman who cooks or rather un-cooks from the outdoor kitchen behind her house. Her specialty is "live" food...raw fruits and vegetables prepared to delicious heights! We've enjoyed pickled sweet raw plantain, spicy sprouted cashews, sweet potato "noodles", curried veggie wraps, almond balls, cucumber and eggplant salad, tabouleh and the list goes on and on and on. I've never eaten so well! I'm so excited to bring home our carefully packaged meals to see what new treats will greet me!
Food and healthy eating is one of my passions. I've been a vegetarian committed to eating whole foods for almost 17 years. I try to eat locally grown foods and dream of the garden I will one day tend. In Brooklyn we belonged to a CSA and supported Farmer Ted from upstate New York. It just makes sense that the things that are supposed to nourish and support our bodies should be of the best quality possible. I was spoiled in Brooklyn because these foods, compared to other parts of the U.S., were easy to come by. We had 2 year round farmer's markets within walking distance from our apartment, the neighborhood CSA and health food establishments aplenty. Before we moved, one of my friends asked me if it would be difficult to maintain a vegetarian diet here in Jamaica. My reply was no because the Rastafarian culture promotes an "ital" or vegetarian lifestyle. I knew veggie foods were available but I didn't realize just how prolific ital food is down here!
To my delight, there are vegetarian options at every restaurant and I'm not talking about the one pasta dish with vegetables that you would find in the states. There is usually a whole section of the menu dedicated to vegetarians!! There are options!! Even the popular fast food restaurant offers veggie stew peas (one of my favorites by the way...although way better when not prepared by a fast food chain...but hey, in a bind, it's great to know it's there...). And the number of restaurants dedicated completely to veggie eating rivals those in NYC! Hope Botanic Gardens, the national botanic garden, has a fancy pants veggie restaurant within its beautiful borders! I wonder how that would fly in the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens!
So, what is the reason for all of this ital food? The reason is simple...God. Jamaica is one of the most religious places I've ever been. There is a church around every corner. The whole educational system is tied to the church. Hospitals and other public institutions are also affiliated. Praise music and gospel is mixed in with the latest Dancehall rhythm on the radio. And I'm not just talking about organized religion...from Rastas to Eckankar members to Spiritualists and others unnamed...they are all here and they are all practicing in a holistic way. They take seriously the call, God in all things. There is a true respect for food that God made for us to nourish our bodies. It's a concept that I find lacking in the majority of believers in the U.S.
It's funny...my views on religion have changed drastically over the years (and I didn't intend for this post to go in this direction...but hey, I'm following the flow...). I consider myself a Spiritualist...open to the many forms the higher energy will take. God, Jah, Allah, whatever the name, is energy...an energy that moves through all things...an energy that is never destroyed but instead changed over and over and over again. With each new incarnation of energy, a new consciousness is born until finally Nirvana, true Enlightenment, is reached. It's a beautiful thing. Once we connect to that energy (in whichever way we choose...church services, yoga, meditation, song, prayer...), we expand and grow closer to the Divine. So it makes sense to me to connect at the most basic level...the food we eat. Think about how intimate a connection that is! By consuming foods grown in a sustainable way...straight from the earth...you are placing Divine Energy inside your body! It's amazing!
And I will leave it at that. Thank you Joy! Thank you Mom-in-law! Jah bless!