I used to think nurses
I used to think police
I used to think poets
Until I became one of them....
‘Who’s Who’ by Benjamin Zephaniah (b 1958)
‘Grounation Day’ is a feast for followers of the Rastafari movement. It celebrates the anniversary of the visit of the Emperor Haile Selassie to Jamaica in April 1966. The Emperor refused to use the red carpet as he descended from his plane – he wanted his feet to be in contact with the ground when he first stepped onto Jamaican soil. The Rasta people who were watching were overjoyed by the symbolic gesture made by the man they revered as their Messiah.
Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about Rastafari.
Rastafari are monotheists, worshipping a singular God whom they call Jah…… Rastas see Jah as being in the form of the Holy Trinity, that is, Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. Rastas say that Jah, in the form of the Holy Spirit (incarnate), lives within the human, and for this reason they often refer to themselves as "I and I". Furthermore, "I and I" is used instead of "We", and is used in this way to emphasize the equality between all people, in the recognition that the Holy Spirit within us all makes us essentially one and the same.
Rastas claim that Haile Selassie, the former Emperor of Ethiopia was the resurrected manifestation of Jesus and therefore the incarnation of Jah on Earth. They believe that the Emperor will one day lead the righteous into Zion. These days we mostly know about the movement through Reggae music; Bob Marley and the poet Benjamin Zephaniah - who's an Ital vegan. I love the picture of him with the cabbage.
As is probably obvious, I’m really interested in the relationship between belief and diet, and given that the Rasta movement is relatively modern - it has its origins in the 1930s, it fascinates me that already it has taken on dietary conventions. Rastas refer to their diet as ‘Ital’ (from ‘vital’). It basically consists of unrefined food and lots of fresh fruit and vegetables – Rastas are often vegetarian or will only eat fish and ‘clean’ meat. Diet is about so much more than what you eat; in religious terms it’s often more about coherence, conformity and community.
The purpose of following an Ital diet is to increase ‘Livity’ or the life energy that Rastas believe is within all living things, so what is put into the our bodies should enhance Livity rather than reduce it. The general principle of the Ital diet is that food should be natural. Most Rastas are teetotal, although the use of ganga, which can induce a prayerful state, is one of their most common and controversial practices.
Well I haven’t smoked anything interesting since I was at University but an Ital diet sounds eminently sensible and delicious – unrefined food, simply produced, simply prepared, simply eaten. Let’s go for it.
I've made hemp seed flat breads - partly because I found some Yorkshire hemp seeds from Skerne near Driffield in my local health food store and couldn't resist something that came from my old home ground, (http://www.yorkshirehemp.com/) and partly as a sort of Rasta joke...
'Ital' Flat breads
1/2 tsp instant yeast
150ml cups warm water
150g organic wholemeal strong flour
50g gram flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Yorkshire hemp seeds lightly toasted
1 tablespoon hemp oil - plus a bit for brushing on the breads
Toast the seeds lightly in a frying pan to brown them and release their flavour.
Combine flours, salt, yeast and seeds in large bowl. Mix the oil and water in a jug and
pour into the flour and stir until well combined.
Knead for 10 minutes, then put in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.
Divide into 8 lumps – I did this with my scales, each bit weighed 50g or you can make a long snake of the dough and divide it by eye. Preheat the oven to 220c and preheat your baking sheet.
Roll out each ball of dough into a circle about 4-5 inches across and 1/4 inch thick. Brush with a little more hemp oil and sprinkle with more seeds or some extra sea salt. Leave for about 10 minutes to recover (the bread not you)
Put on a hot baking sheet and bake each circle for 4 minutes until the bread puffs up. Turn over and bake for 1-2 more minutes. Don't overcook or you'll have cardboard. These breads are like a really tasty pitta with the added crunch of the hemp seeds to make them interesting.
We ate these with a white bean hummus ( 500g cooked white beans, rind and juice of a lemon, 50ml olive oil, tablespoon chopped fresh mint, crushed clove of garlic, S & P - bung the lot into a food processor and blitz really well until smooth - delish).
Guaranteed to increase your Livity.
I waz whitemailed
By a white witch,
Wid white magic
An white lies,
Branded by a white sheep
I slaved as a whitesmith
Near a white spot
Where I suffered whitewater fever.
Whitelisted as a whiteleg
I waz in de white book
As a master of white art,
It waz like white death.
From ‘Propa Propaganda’ by Benjamin Zephaniah (b 1958)