'Footy' keeping things ital for 40 years
Markland 'Footy' Ricketts is arguably the most familiar face in the community of Hadoo in Westmoreland. Over the past four decades, his trademark 'ital' peanut soup has been a big hit with both residents and passing motorists.
In fact, for many persons who regularly traverse the Montego Bay to Westmoreland route, a journey is never considered complete without a cup of the vendor's tasty 'saltless' and 'meatless' offering.
"I have a whole lot of tourists and guests who support me and who like the thing I do because I don't use meat, and I don't use salt," said the 56-years-old Ricketts. "Everybody rates me, and they support me in this field."
As he scoops out his tasty liquid delicacy, which goes for $100 per cup, to a waiting customer, Ricketts explained to the WESTERN STAR that he started his no-meat style of cooking after returning home from a stint on the farm work programme in the United States in the 1980s.
"I started this (soup vending) from in the 1970s, and I left it and went to America in the 1980s to go and work on a vegetable farm," said Ricketts.
"I used to cook meat, but when I went up there (US), they told me they had meat which was fried 10 years ago."
"So I said to the lady, 'What do you do with the meat when it gets old?'," continued Rickets. "She said they send it to Third-World countries. And I said, 'that is why we have to be sick so,' and that is how come I started cooking the ital peanut and peas."
Because of his popularity in the community, Ricketts is often the go-to man when residents want someone to fulfil a favour for them.
"Right now, it come in like mi a di big figure inna the community, because any time they want to send on something to somebody, it's me them leave everything to because I know everybody in the community," said Ricketts.
After being around for so many years, pleasing the palates of the soup lovers from all over western Jamaica, Ricketts is still as enthused as ever as he goes out each day to satisfy his ever-expanding clientele.
"Selling this ital soup is what has made me famous, so I have no retirement plans," said Ricketts. "I will be here to serve my customers for a long time to come."