Better living through eating well
CAVAN native Áine McAteer has a CV that instantly grabs your attention. Her client list as a private chef in LA includes Hollywood A-listers, such as Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise, and in recent years she has started to incorporate marijuana into her cooking for medical purposes.
The results, she says, have been very encouraging and she hopes to organise a hemp event in Ireland in the New Year to explore the health benefits of the plant which is used in everything from clothing to building materials.
Here, the Cannabis for Medicinal Use Regulation Bill passed through the Dáil last December, but in July the bill was effectively shelved following a report from the Oireachtas committee on health.
McAteer now hopes to open up a discussion on the health benefits of cannabis, drawing on her experience of using it infused in butters and oils in California where its use for qualified patients has been legal since 1996.
She says hemp has a wide range of health benefits and it is worth exploring how they can be exploited by integrating them into food. But that is just one element of her wide-ranging and holistic approach to cooking, which is underpinned by the guiding principle that you can eat your way to better health.
She discovered the truth of that in her late teens/early 20s when she was diagnosed with an under-active thyroid. She took medication at first, but then began to seek out ways to improve her health naturally.
The search brought her to the Golden Dawn, a macrobiotic restaurant in Dublin. “I thought that everyone looked so healthy and I thought that whatever these guys are on, I want some of that.”
As it turned out, “some of that” involved a radical change in diet. The woman who was brought up on creamy milk and cheese in Cavan discovered that she was lactose intolerant and had to cut dairy from her diet.
She introduced sea vegetables, rich in thyroid-boosting iodine, and a range of wholegrains and pulses and soon her health began to improve. She was so impressed, in fact, that she started to work for the restaurant. Two years later, she moved to London and began to study at a macrobiotic centre where she discovered the healing power of food.
“I always go to my kitchen when I’m not feeling well,” she tells Feelgood.
“There is always something I can do through food to improve the condition I have and I have seen it with the people I work for.”
She moved to the States to further her studies and there she started to cook for Barbara Orbison, wife of the famous musician Roy.
Before too long, her holistic and healing approach to cooking was in demand and she was asked to cook for other famous musicians as well as a long list of Hollywood stars that included John Cusack, Pierce Brosnan and the Simpsons creator Matt Groening.
Many of her clients simply wanted to maximise their health, but others were looking for an alternative approach to deal with illness.
For example, she recalls working with an R ’n’ B singer whose MS symptoms significantly improved after she cut sugar from her diet and began to eat in a more balanced way.
She says achieving more balance in the diet is crucial and recommends that our food be as close to nature as possible. Processed food, sugar-rich food and an over-reliance on carbohydrates cause acidity in the system, which brings with it a range of problems.
“A lot of people start the day with coffee and toast, but that is really acidic,” she says, recommending small, simple changes to improve health.
Here are two of her juices to start and finish the day. Morning Green Elixir You’ll need: 1 bunch celery; 1 small cucumber; 1 bunch fresh parsley: 1 green apple, half lemon.
Cut into manageable sizes for your juicer. You can peel the lemon if you prefer a more mellow lemon flavour. If it’s organic, you can juice the skin too. Press through your juicer and enjoy. Sweet Dreams Nightcap You’ll need: 1 cup of hemp, oat, almond or other nut milk; half tsp turmeric; 1 tsp honey.
Heat the milk and stir in the turmeric and honey. Sip and drift off into happy dreamland.
HOLISTIC APPROACH: Áine McAteer is in demand for her approach to diet, saying it should be as close to nature as possible. She is also known for incorporating marijuana into her cooking.