Rastafarianism has a deep cultural aspect because of their past of Spanish and British control. With this unique combination of control, Rastafarianism is now practiced in Jamaica, parts of Europe and Asia, New Zealand, the United States, and Africa. The mixing of Spanish and British cultures made for wonderful food that blended different flavor combinations from all across the world; one of these dishes being sweet potato pudding.
When food is “Ital”, in Rastafarianism it means that the food is natural, pure, and clean. From a Rastafarian standpoint, this means no salt, chemicals, flesh, or blood; Rastafarians have dietary rules similar to Judaism. All fish eaten must be less than a foot long, no shell fish or fish without scales, no pork, no canned or dried foods, artificial coloring may not be added to food, and all food must not be made in any sort of metal; instead Rastas use clay and wooden pots or utensils. The meaning behind this is that Rasta’s not only see the food they eat as a way to be a part of nature, but also as medicine for the body. This metal-free way of cooking makes it so that any sort of metal cannot get into your body, so everything going into your body remains pure (Writer, 2004).
Sweet potato pudding is typically made all across the world and consists of coconut milk, sweet potatoes, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, brown sugar, flour, and raisins soaked in sherry. Sweet potato pudding is a widely eaten dish among the Ital culture, known to be a part of Sunday dessert. Making this dish involves pureeing sweet potato and coconut milk in a blender, then adding all the other ingredients into a bowl and pouring it into a dish to put into the oven; then baked at three-hundred-fifty degrees for a half hour and three hundred degrees at twenty-five minutes (Murphy, 2004). Problems that I could run into while preparing this dish is that it will be a challenge to try to good without using metal, being that a lot of things in my kitchen are metal.
I felt attracted to sweet potato pudding because it sounded unique and something that I haven’t heard of before. With healthy alternatives, this sounded like a healthy option that I could potentially make more often in the future. Also, who doesn’t like sweet potatoes? Emile Durkheim defines religion as “a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart forbidden beliefs and practices which unite into one single, moral community”(Priya, n.d.). This is a religious dish because it follows the sacred values that the Ital culture believes in upon preparing food. The ingredients of this dish follows the all-natural way of life that most Rastafarians follow; the preparation involves being made without metal utensils additives, and salt. I believe this dish considered religious because of the unified and moral values that come along with every step of making this dish (using all natural ingredients, not metal utensils); the Rasta community makes this dish religious by passing down the beliefs of how food should be made. This brings the concept of morality into each and every dish made in the Rasta culture due to their holistic, mind/body belief system.
When looking back at the history of sweet potato pudding, the roots go past just Jamaica (where I thought this recipe began), and it is thought to of begun in Peru. However, it is unclear how sweet potatoes were brought to South America (Miller, 2015). In the 16th century, Spaniards shipped sweet potatoes from America to two different destinations: one being West Africa and the other being Western Europe. This crop was then introduced to Asia in the late 17th and 18th centuries. West Africans started experimenting with sweet potatoes as possible substitutes for other root crops. These root crops were usually used in sauces, soups, or stews, typically served with fish. West Africans did not eat the sweet potatoes because of their taste, they ate them because of the flavors the leaves hold. Cooking sweet potatoes for a “dessert” was more or less something that the Europeans did. After sweet potatoes were mentioned in one of Shakespeare’s plays, the food started showing up in English royalty’s meals. Not too much after sweet potatoes showing up on royal tables, Hannah Glasse published a cookbook showing vegetable puddings. In her book, making vegetable puddings were described as boiling and grating, mashing or slicing a vegetable, then adding butter, eggs, milk, and sugar before baking in a pie crust. This recipe then changed from country to country throughout political rulings, ranging on various types of vegetables and ingredients (Miller, How Sweet Potato Pie Became African American's Thanksgiving Dessert, 2015).
Sweet potatoes are versatile and used differently among culture to culture because of the adaptability and hardiness the vegetable holds. Just like in West Africa where only the roots are eaten, whereas in the American cultures we typically eat the “flower” and not the root. Sweet Potatoes are also very popular in many cultures because of its ability to multiply quickly. This topic relates to religious freedom because with England and Spain primarily ruling Jamaica (where Rastafarianism in most relevant), recipes started changing as Rastafarianism became more relevant to their culture. Rastafarians believe in staying healthy and spiritually connected to the earth, eating a natural diet free from chemicals and any additives or meats. This dish uses well-being because Rastafarians believe in a very pure way of life. Rastas are mostly vegan which means that they don’t eat any animal products. Sweet potato pudding incorporates animal substitution products such as coconut milk (instead of cow milk). The Rastafarians don’t make food using any sort of metal because they believe it can be harmful to their health. Unlike, where in most Western European cultures, meats and additives are allowed. Rastafarianism can also cross into the environmental justice and individual well-being line because of them conserving natures true resources by eating all natural and not eating most animals. Gathering the ingredients for my dish required a little bit more money than I thought. With this topic brings me to the discussion of social justice. People outside of this culture who would like to make this dish may not have enough money to afford all natural ingredients, or even some of the ingredients in general. This dish can be produced with the attention to environmental justice, well-being, social justice, and religious freedom.
The first thing I did to make sweet potato pudding was gather up all the ingredients I needed. For this dish I collected one pound of sweet potatoes, coconut milk, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, vanilla, brown sugar, and flour.
I then cut up the sweet potatoes into slices, after cutting them into slices, I cut them into quarters, and put them into a blender. Although using a metal knife is against the Rastafarian beliefs, I bent the rules a little bit because it was hard to find a knife that wasn’t metal.
After putting the sweet potatoes in the blender, I added three cups of coconut milk in the blender and blended them together until I got the desired consistency.
Next, I emptied out the blender and put it into a plastic mixing bowl. I chose a real smooth consistency for my pudding. Tasting it during this step kind of reminded me of pumpkin pie.
I then mixed ½ teaspoon of cinnamon, ½ teaspoon of ground ginger, ½ teaspoon of nutmeg, 1 ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract, 1 ¼ cup of brown sugar, and 1 cup of flour together. Adding the flour really thickened this mixture and gave this the pudding consistency.
From there, I put the mixture into a stone baking pan and put it in the oven at 350 F for an hour and a half. After the hour and a half, I turned the oven down to 300 F and cooked it for a remaining 25 minutes.
Once the timer went off, I immediately took the sweet potato pudding out of the oven and let it sit until it cooled down. This made my whole house smell like a fall scented candle. After that, I put it in the refrigerator for a few hours and shared with my friends and family. The finished product tasted like a sweeter pumpkin pie. This dish made you full really easily so I could only eat little servings at a time. I would make this dish again, but maybe try warming it up with ice cream.
While I was making my dish of sweet potato pudding, I felt like I was disrespecting the Rastafarian culture because I could not do the culturally significant things they do. This made a moral conflict arise within myself for I respect all cultures. After thinking about this issue for a little bit, I knew that I was not the only one that felt this way. This made me realize that throughout the process of making food, no matter what culture it resides in, comes moral and ethical considerations.
In regards to well being, Rastafarians believe in a very “pure” way of life; for this reason, Rasta’s are mostly all vegan. The Rastafarians don’t make food using any sort of metal because they believe it can be harmful to their health. This was probably one of the hardest challenges I experienced with this dish; when you think about it, a lot of what we use in the kitchen is in fact metal. This dish also took three and a half hours to bake, so if the creator of this dish doesn’t plan accordingly this dish may not get the credit it deserves.
When I was finding the ingredients for I wanted to go as Rasta as possible, therefore, I bought all-natural ingredients for my whole dish. Wow was that pricey! With this topic brings me to the discussion of social justice. People who make this dish may not have enough money to afford all natural ingredients, or even some of the ingredients in general. For people who are not financially well off, some of the ingredients in this dish (all natural or not) could be too expensive for them to even want to consider making sweet potato pudding.
Rastafarians believe in a pure way of life, they should know where most of their ingredients are coming from (whether that be from their own backyard or at a local market). When I made this dish the only thing I knew was that the ingredients came from Target. This creates a conflict in regards to environmental justice. How do I know if the ingredients are pure? With all my ingredients coming from Target, this made it hard to locally source where all my ingredients came from. We also need to take into consideration the amount of fuel to get the ingredients from the producer to the store then to home. Considering that I have done a reasonable amount of research about the Rastafarian religion and way of life, I believe that they would not be okay with the amount of fumes that was put into the environment just to make their dish.
Since Rastafarians are not prevalent in the United States it is hard to get an accurate reading on their culture. Only knowing a little bit about the Rastafarian culture, would they be okay with people of other faiths making this dish? In regards to the original Rastafarian belief system, I believe they wouldn’t be accepting of other cultures making this dish. In the early beliefs of Rastafarianism, they believed white people were inferior to them and that Rastafarians would eventually rule the world (Rastafarian Beliefs, 2009). Although Rastafarianism is based off of a combination of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, they were “pro-African” and believed that Africans were superior. Throughout time, this belief has been diminished and is no longer practiced within in their religion. While there are some stereotypical beliefs about the Rastafarian culture, I believe most of the public has the wrong idea about their beliefs system. Considering what a small part of the world is Rastafarian, they are quite ahead of their time. This culture takes wellbeing, social justice, environmental justice, and religious freedom all into their own perspective.
Now that all the preparations for my dish of sweet potato pudding are over with, I feel proud of myself about what I made. I think I picked this dish because it sounded the most unique but also something that I knew I could prepare more. I am a total foodie and found that sweet potato pudding would fit into my lifestyle if I were to like the dish. I also really enjoy sweet potatoes but get stuck on other things to do besides baking them or eating them as fries. Sweet potato pudding taught me that the Rastafarians eat clean but simple; this dish didn’t have a lot of ingredients so it is not something you need to go to the store for every time you make it. Most of Rastafarian food is vegan so I knew that this dish had to be of nutritional value and be (somewhat) healthy. With sweet potato pudding being new to me, it taught me that it is easy to cook healthy meals at home. A lot of the time I get intimidated by cooking at home so I go out to eat or buy food already prepared. Sweet potato pudding has a religious significance because it follows the rules that Rastafarians believe in. The Rastafarians believe in a “pure” way of eating, meaning they follow certain rules to make sure that the food is in the purest form before it gets into your body; so much so that Rastafarians don’t use any metal while cooking for metals particles can fall off onto the food and absorbed into the bloodstream, eventually affecting your health. Religion plays a role in this dish because it serves a purpose with the religion it coincides with. Rastafarians usually eat this on Sundays during a family meal. To me, family is a religion, so if this dish was eaten at a ‘family get together’ of mine I would consider it a holy dish.
Miller, A. (November, 24 2015). How Sweet Potato Pie Became AfricanAmericans' Thankgiving Dessert. Retrieved from The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/how-sweet-potato-pie-became-african-americans-favorite-dessert/2015/11/23/11da4216-9201-11e5-b5e4-279b4501e8a6_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.569fdc12c27b
Murphy, W. (2004). Jamaican Sweet Potato Pudding Recipe. Retrieved from Breads and Cakes: https://jamaicans.com/spotatop/
Priya, R. (n.d). The Durkeim's Sociology of Religion and Its Function. Retrieved from http://www.youracrticlelibrary.com/sociology/the-durkheims-sociology-of-reigion-and-its-function/43749
Rastafarian Beliefs. (2009, October 9). Retrieved from Original and Modern Beliefs:http//www.bbc.co.uk/religion/rastafari/beliefs/beliefs_1.shtml
Wrtiter, S. (2004). Ital Food. Retrieved from Rastafari: https://jamaicans.com/ital_food/