Aital is a food system developed in Jamaica in the 1930s that stems from the Rastafarian religion. Her followers eat plant-based and unprocessed foods. This is the diet of some South Asian people, including many Jains and Hindus, but when you think about it, Aital is veganism.
“Leonard Howell, one of the founders and progenitors of the Rastafari, was influenced by Indians on the island who didn’t eat meat,” says Poppy Thompson, who drives the van with her partner Dan Thompson.
Aital traditional food cooked on open coals consists of stews based on vegetables and fruits, yams, rice, peas, quinoa, onions, garlic with lime, thyme, nutmeg and other fragrant herbs and spices. Food cooked in the ItalFresh van is a modern take on the traditional rasta diet.
The concept of aital is based on the idea that the life force of God (or Jah) exists in all living beings from humans to animals. The term “ital” itself comes from the word “vital”, which is translated from English as “full of life.” Rastas consume natural, pure and natural food and avoid preservatives, flavorings, oils and salt, replacing it with sea or kosher. Many of them also avoid drugs and medicines because they do not believe in modern medicine.
Poppy and Dan didn’t always follow the ital system. They switched to the diet four years ago to improve their health and prevent environmental damage. Also, the spiritual beliefs of the couple became a prerequisite for the transition. ItalFresh’s goal is to eliminate stereotypes about Rastafarians and vegans.
“People don’t understand that Rastafari is a deeply spiritual and political ideology. There’s a stereotype that rasta is mostly lazy marijuana smoking and wearing dreadlocks,” says Dan. Rasta is a state of mind. ItalFresh should break these stereotypes about the Rathafarian movement, as well as about the food system. Aital is known as ordinary stewed vegetables in a pot without salt and taste. But we want to change this opinion, so we prepare bright, modern dishes and create complex flavor combinations, adhering to the principles of Aital.”
“Plant-based food forces you to be more imaginative and creative in the kitchen, and you need to explore foods you may not have heard of before,” Poppy says. – Aital means nourishing our minds, bodies and souls with a clear mind, creativity in the kitchen and creating delicious food. We eat varied and colorful foods, lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, grains, leafy greens. Whatever non-vegans eat, we can italize it.”
Poppy and Dan aren’t vegan, but Dan gets really annoyed when people ask him how he gets enough protein.
“It’s amazing how many people suddenly become nutritionists when they find out that someone is a vegetarian. Most people don’t actually even know the daily recommended amount of protein!
Dan wants people to be more open to varied diets, rethink the amount of food they eat and the impact that food has on their bodies and the environment.
“Food is medicine, food is medicine. I think people are ready for that thought to be awakened,” adds Poppy. “Eat and feel the world!”