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'Rasta' Smith's Ital Sips

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Thursday, May 13, 2021

Lagger “Rasta” Smith has been selling ital sips since they cost one cent per cup, almost 40 years now, on the bustling streets of Montego Bay.

His pleasant and easy-going demeanour is one of the first things that is readily noticeable about him; some think that his energy eventually comes out in the food.

Thursday Food caught up with him at his base of operations at Barracks Road.

“I started selling soup in the early 80s: Cow skin and cock soup. But me sight up the thing and say 'natural' was the thing. So, around '84 I made the change and by '89 Rastafari was the full manifestation of the change. When I started it was one cent a cup. Them time deh with some little one-handle cups, and market goods cost me about eight cents. We use to be on Fowler Bridge, but the place rebuild and I move to Arcade gate,” Smith explained.

His sip formulation, he added, has been the same since he started: Fresh produce and seasonings from the market, and he's out from Monday to Saturday.

“The sip have in pumpkin, turnip, cho-cho (chayote), ibage (cabbage), irot (carrot), ilaloo (callaloo), peas, yam, breadfruit, plus fresh seasonings and any food in season. When I come first with the sip my customers try it and some say yes man it nice and some tek whey demself, some people if dem naw buss bone dem no happy, dem naw come a yuh. Mi hold it still, yes-I,” Smith added.

“Me grater the coconut first, add the pumpkin, breadfruit and yam. After about an hour you add more stuff and at two hours everything can get in now. The whole process tek three to four hours to get it to the manifestation I want. Seasonings like sweet and hot pepper, scallion, thyme, okra and vegetable soup it up help bring out the flavour,” Smith added further.

Rasta says his love for what he does keeps him going. Since COVID restrictions his times have changed but you can find him at the entrance to the old Shoes Market at the intersection of Creek and St James streets.

—Text & Photos by