There are no beer bellies, spare tyres or love handles at Bobo Hill.
No hippy women with meaty thighs or flabby arms.
In this tightly governed hillside community of Rastas on the fringes of eastern Kingston, bodies are lean with nary an ounce to spare.
The slender physiques are a testimony to their meatless diet. The Rastafarians at Bobo Hill say they do not eat meat, or ground provisions that grow on a vine, like pumpkin, red peas and sweet potato. Instead, they eat mainly fruits; vegetables; ground provisions like yam and dasheen; bananas and plantains; and whole wheat flour.
Bobo Hill grows its own food callaloo, peanuts, bananas, dasheen, coco, plantain, Irish potato, carrot, cassava, and a variety of other items. (They do, however, buy from outside when they run short.) They also bake their own bread, yatty (patty), and puddings.
WHY RASTAS DO NOT EAT MEAT
It’s a form of cannibalism: Jermaine ‘Priest Kassa’ Flemmings, a resident of the Hill, describes meat eating as a form of cannibalism that contributes to the increasing rate of obesity in Jamaica.
Illness and diseases: He also reckons that our meat-based diet is a factor in illnesses such as cancer, high blood pressure, and tuberculosis.
“The bacteria of animal meat and human blood get contaminated and because of this the body becomes ‘green’, ‘crossed’ and ‘miserable’ and humans get all types of diseases,” he explains.
He advises men to include more salads and tomatoes in their diet to reduce their risk of prostate cancer. Vegetables, he adds, will cleanse the body and tomato is excellent in preventing the disease. The body also needs a red food as the blood is red and needs a red addition to balance itself.
“To be free from all sickness and diseases and live a healthy lifestyle fresh juices, salads. Every time you go to eat you should see on your plate red, gold and green (in color of foods).”
Meat is not needed to fuel the human body: Priest Kassa who cooks frequently at the Universal Kitchen at the camp adds that animal meat provided for human consumption often contains diseases unbeknown to the supplier. Meat is not necessary, he adds, because other food items provide all the nutrients, minerals and vitamins needed by the body.
“I and I meat free to keep a steady diet. I and I carry vegetable fat and not a fleshy fat.”
It’s forbidden because they are true followers of Jesus Christ: Priest Linton Forrester, another resident, explains that meat is forbidden because they are Nazarenes, true followers of Jesus Christ, who do not partake of the flesh.
This, he said, can be proven in the Bible, Numbers 6 and Hebrews 7, which speak to why Rastafarians wear their hair in locks. He also notes that when pork is eaten by humans their sin is multiplied seven times seven.
WHY THEY DO NOT EAT FOOD GROWN ON VINES
They do not eat of the vine because it runs. This, they say, makes their spirit grow in the same way that the vine does and will therefore make them not steadfast in memory (forgetful). Plus, the devil feeds on foods of the vine.
However, on rare occasions, a person with hernia is given pumpkin as medicine.
NATURAL HERBS BUT NO GARLIC
Natural herbs like escallion, thyme and onions are used liberally at Bobo Hill. (Bottled or powered seasonings are forbidden.) However, the priests, ministers of Jah, rarely eat garlic as they say it interferes with their spirituality and causes them to be self-indulgent and priests have a duty to keep their temper free and pure.
The aloe vera is often used as a cleansing agent to purify the body of unwanted substance.
EAT WITH CAUTION
There are certain foods that are eaten at Bobo Hill with cautious preparation:
Sweet and scotch bonnet peppers: The seeds have to be removed because they “stick up on lungs and can cause a stoppage of water,” says Priest Kassa.
Stew: Peas and peanuts, Irish potato, carrot, callaloo, coconut milk, scallion, thyme, pepper, salt, pimento seed.
Sip: It’s called sip, and not soup, as it contains no meat.
Yatty: This is similar to patty but the Rastafarians say yatty as it contains no meat. It is made mainly of peas and beans and flour used for making the crust.
Vegetables: Callaloo, cabbage, carrots.
Processed vegetarian produces: Mince, chunks and tofu.
Peas: Gungo, lentil, round red peas, black eye, split peas but not cow peas. Only the women are allowed to eat red peas as it is said that when men eat red peas it causes their carnality to rise (lust of the flesh).
Sweeteners: Wet sugar, honey and molasses.
Ground provisions: Irish potatoes, bananas, and plantains are some of the few (except those from the vine).
Solids: Flour, rice (white, brown, black or wheat) and cornmeal.
Nuts: Peanuts and almonds.
A typical daily menu at Bobo Hill.
Porridge: Cornmeal mixed with whole wheat flour, plantain.
Sip (soup), bread, fish (for a few people), callaloo, stew, courage (a stew made of peas, Irish potato, carrot).
Rice and peas and courage or sip
Did you know?
Residents call Bobo Hill the Ethiopia Africa Black International Congress Church of True Divine Salvation.