This is the saying or slogan of the Freedom Fighters Ital Shack. Roland M Joe, aka: Ras Bushman and his wife work together feeding guests vegetarian food except on the Sabbath. They are Rastafarian, their diet and lifestyle follow this belief system. They also have a farm in Bellevue, just before Marigot.
My digestive system has been giving me trouble lately. We stopped in for lunch and right away Ras went into “bush doctor” mode. We climbed the stairs alongside of the house where he has a small garden. He showed me the many seedlings, ready for transplanting. We stopped at an aloe plant where he carefully chose and cut one of its stalks. Skillfully carving away the outer sheath to reveal translucent meat, he bade me to eat the gum-sized gooey plant. It was bitter but I obeyed, swallowing as much as I could whole. He told me to drink some water and my stomach would feel better, which it did. We headed back down to the restaurant to get some lunch.
There is no menu. The board states what is being served that day with a list of available drinks, no alcohol. We chose sorrel juice to accompany our plate of oat croquettes, chick peas with sweet potatoes, corned rice and dandelion salad. We liked it so much we went back a second day and had veggie pasta, sweet potato salad with cashew dressing, black quinoa, and fresh-picked arugula salad. (See photos)
The type of sweet potato used has purple skin but the inside is white and soft with a hint of sweetness when prepared. The oat croquettes and quinoa gave the meal the substance of meat without feeling overstuffed.
Eating is a serious joy of providing the body clean energy to run on. This is their philosophy and their youthful smiles and trim physiques agree. Simple, clean, well cooked and combined foods from scratch, served with pleasure. It is all part of a slow life where folks sit down to eat, actually taking time to taste each bite. Savoring flavors and textures is all part of the sacred practice of eating a meal.
Here they still relish what the western culture has sold out to convenience. Making something from nothing is part of our DNA. Families hand down their traditional recipes based upon years of perfecting that one special dish. Sadly much of modern society hasn’t even learned basic cooking skills. So many young people haven’t a clue where their food comes from or what processes it takes to get from farm to the table.
Meat doesn’t taste the same or have the same texture it did some fifteen years ago. Animals are confined in CAFOs and often injected full of hormones and antibiotics. These “farms,” more like concentration camps, release toxic waste impacting the environment. Agricultural farming isn’t any better. Today’s practices deplete the soil of necessary minerals and microbes. Spray fertilizer, herbicides, and pesticides harm the soil, plants, environment, and ultimately humans. Grocery stores give the illusion of choice when the reality is — that only a few corporations are represented. Within the last five years groceries have revamped to make room for giant freezers to hold pre-cooked and prepared items. These products are conveniently inconvenient. Although it may be easy to heat up in the oven or pop into the microwave, these processed meals end up costing more in money and health. Chemicals add flavor, preservatives, shelf life, and dyes make it all appear appetizing. The list of diseases is mind boggling. There has been a steady rise in food allergies, and so many people, including children, are becoming overweight. It seems sad to think this is all considered normal. We eat on the run, in a car, out of a box, in front of the TV, we eat when we’re bored or emotional….we’ve lost something important.
To change is a process that will take time in the beginning. Cooking and organizing supplies to have on hand becomes easier with practice. Whipping together healthy meals is so worth it. Sitting down to eat together lends itself to the art of conversation and relationship building the table is magic. In this way we can take back control from a centralized food system that seeks to help us spend our hard-earned money. In the process we also will take back our health and well-being. Food is our energy, it is vital. The human body runs best on high test fuel. Small changes over time will become a lifestyle change. Learning to eat with awareness, savoring each bite will make a big difference.
Ital is vital. Our Rastafarian friends are living examples of what is possible if we care enough to try. We once knew this and can learn it yet again. So much here on the island challenges me to become a better version of myself. Food is just one area.