Horace Fisher, Gleaner Writer
MAY PEN, Clarendon:RASTAFARIANS ARE famous for their culinary skills, especially for the art of cooking holistic food, or "ital stew", which Clarendon-based Ras Manga has taken to a new level with the establishment of Magna's Shiftaurant.
Manga, who graduated from the Edna Manley College of Visual and Performing Arts, has been preparing mouth-watering, tantalising dishes locally and internationally for more than 30 years and has paraded his magical cooking skills in England, The Cayman Islands, and Panama. In fact, he claims to have developed The Cayman Islands' Turtle Patty and the ready-to-eat Jamaican fish and bammy.
Ras Manga, who is also the host of Best FM's Saturday food show Nature Table, explained that a "Shiftaurant" is simply a virtual or none-restaurant that shifts from place to place to serve clients. He said this allows him to infuse the environment into the preparation of dishes.
"It's very simple: A shiftaurant is just a none-physical restaurant or a virtual location where food is prepared. This concept gives me the liberty to use the rivers, the forest, the birds, the flora and fauna to enhance my food preparation," Manga pointed out.
"Just imagine cooking some good old-time Jamaican food by the river, with the sweet aroma of the wood fire cooking, mixed with wild flowers, assailing your nostrils as the birds sing to the rhythm of the rippling river under the canopy of the forest," said Manga, who is also a dub poet. "That is a shiftaurant. You just need your pots, pans, utensils, and food, and you are good to go," he added, smiling at the imagery that he had just conjured up.
Manga listed a number of dishes that have evolved in Jamaica over the decades as priority on his menu, including dukunnu, dip and fall back, run down, corn meal porridge, hell-a-top, hell-a-bottom and hallelujah in the middle, ackee and salt fish, and pepper pot soup, among a long list of mouth-watering treats in which he specialises. These are guaranteed to have patrons licking their plates and lips.
"When I serve a dish to my clients, that dish must create conversation. If I serve you a dish of Gideon Gold, Reparation Stew, or Liberation Sip, it must pique your curiosity. You must want to know the thinking behind the naming of the dish. It isn't only prepared for its nutritional benefits," he insisted.