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Have Ital, Will Travel: Where to Find Rastafarian Food in South America

Traditionally a Jamaican cuisine based on Rastafarian beliefs, Ital food has reached other countries as well. Guyana, a small country along the north coast of South America, is one of them. In Georgetown, the capital, you'll find a couple of restaurants serving Ital food. One of them is the “House of Flavour”. 

Ital food is based on Rastafarian beliefs and is vegan and macrobiotic. It excludes meat, dairy, salt, and additives and focuses on fresh, seasonal plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, and legumes all enriched with spices and herbs. And House of Flavour, manned by the Captain, dishes out delectable Ital cuisine daily.

Eighteen years ago, Desmond – "Just call me 'Captain', everybody does" – opened his restaurant in downtown Georgetown. He worked as a fisherman on a shrimp trawler and had never cooked a meal in his life but he wanted to do something else: start his own business. "So, every day I strolled through the market, asking vendors and buyers what to cook with the fresh produce," he explained. "That's how I learned. I know all the vendors and know exactly who is selling what at what price."

And House of Flavour was born. The restaurant, which doubles as a music store run by the captain's wife, is open every day of the week except on Sundays and holidays. Captain starts cooking at three am and all dishes are daily prepared from scratch. No leftovers, nothing in the freezer. "That doesn't do the food any good," he commented. 

He starts serving at 7.30 am and continues until the food runs out. You'll find a few choices on the menu:

- A meal for 200, 300, or 500 Guyanese dollars (approx. the equivalent of 1, 1.5, 2.5 US dollars, making it the cheapest restaurant in town).

- A meal served in a calabash – to be eaten in the restaurant – or in a Styrofoam container to take away.

For the 300 and 500 versions you get every dish on the menu of that day: rice, dhal, and all seven side dishes. The 200 choice includes rice, dhal, and two side dishes. All meals are served with chutney and you can order an additional fresh juice, made from local fruits to which ginger and/or lemon may have been added.

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