Ras Manga brings 'live food' to St Ann
Carl Gilchrist, Gleaner Writer
With the focus nowadays on health and well-being, given the scare that diseases such as chik-v, Ebola and others have been causing, the importance of a healthy diet cannot be overemphasised.
Raw-food specialist, 'Shef' (chef) Ras Manga firmly believes that eating healthy is one of the single most important steps to maintaining good health and to guard against debilitating diseases.
Last Saturday, the 'shef' brought his 'Shiftaurant' (shifting the way people eat) featuring his "live" food, to the luscious surroundings of Irie River in Bonham Spring, Ocho Rios, to the delight of, unfortunately, just a handful of people.
The fact that he was doing a photo shoot in the company of the multitalented Marco Di Florio, along with Raul Dunkley and Adio McCaw, did not diminish the message.
The "live food," according to Ras Manga, means uncooked food.
"Right now, we're in a serious economic crisis and we need healthy people to get us out of that," Ras Manga told Rural Xpress.
"Jamaica is suffering from some serious debilitating diseases that don't necessarily have to be. I'm saying that there are other options, there are better options.
"Although we've been cultured by supermarkets and media to eat all kinds of things, we now see it necessary, with everything else, including chik-v, Ebola and all the other diseases that are (expected) to come, we see it necessary for people to put themselves in a better health position, with a better immune system, better nerves, better strength, and better respiratory system."
"So what better way to get all that system working than by eating healthy, live food coming from the ground, coming from the tree, coming from nature, in its natural form?"
"This is not refined food. This is not processed food, nor bleached food. This is not food that is enriched or empowered, or with added vitamins or anything of the sort. This is just food coming from nature to you."
The ingredients used were rich. For protein, he used nuts such as pecan, cashew, almond, and peanut. He used natural seasoning, including garlic, scallion, tomato, chilli pepper, paprika, natural black salt, brewers yeast for extra flavour, olive oil, and coconut oil.
Vegetables included pumpkin, carrot, lettuce, tomato, and cucumber. For starch, he used the highly nutritious black rice. He also used ackee and ripe plantain.
The names of the dishes were as interesting as the dishes themselves
"The one with the black rice we call that Liberation Stew. The Redemption Song is the one where ackee get redeemed from salt fish. We nuh haffi use ackee and salt fish anymore. We don't grow salt fish in Jamaica and we can save our money by using the plantain.
"Ackee a par with ripe plantain that was dehydrated. We don't want to give you a name like ackee and plantain, it's Redemption Song."
Other dishes included Collective Security, Reparation Stew, and Simplicity.
According to Ras Manga, food is like art and he presents it like poetry.
"So when you eat and you know the name that I give it, then we're going to start a conversation and that conversation can lead to either a cultural awareness, historical enlightenment, or even from a nutritional point of view, you can just take it on and get healthier."
Di Florio, a financial adviser with New York Life Insurance Company, owner of Di Florio Financial, an international photographer, media director and multimedia artist, is supportive of Ras Manga's philosophy and practice.
"I think the overall objective of Manga's mission here is to institute an opportunity for someone to be just a bit healthier or to be cognitive of things that they never understood would be better for them, and in the long run, make them feel better about themselves," Di Florio said.
"And if you feel better about who you are and you're enjoying what you're putting in your body because you see the results, that's a victorious moment for anyone."
Ras Manga is based in May Pen, Clarendon, and hosts a healthy lifestyle programme on Bess 100 FM.