Aine McAteer
I once heard a story of a king, who while out walking in his kingdom got a thorn in his foot. The king was so outraged that he ordered that by the next day his entire kingdom be carpeted, otherwise all of his men would be beheaded. Of course, there was not enough carpet in his kingdom to cover it completely, and even if there was, the time and manpower available was not enough to complete the task. One wise guy came up with an idea: Instead of carpeting the entire kingdom, why not cut out pieces of carpet to fit the soles of the king's feet so that everywhere he walked, he would be on carpet? The king was impressed with this idea, and the lives of his men were spared.

I can certainly relate to this story, as I have tried in my own way to create a perfect world where there is peace, health and harmony and I'm unaffected by life's "thorns." This can be quite a daunting task, as there are so many elements in life that are beyond our control. I'm not always able to control the quality of the air that I breathe or the actions of the people around me. However, there are elements that are within our control, such as the company we keep, our daily practices and the foods we consume. By educating ourselves and making healthy choices, just like the king with his carpet slippers, we can move through life protected from its thorns.

Not all of us have the luxury of living in a beautiful rural setting and eating foods grown in our own garden. I feel quite fortunate that I grew up in rural Ireland, in a natural environment, and from an early age had a connection with where my food came from. As children, we were all given our own little allotment in the garden where we were free to plant flowers, fruits or vegetables. It was always fascinating for me to plant a seed and watch it grow into something of substance and beauty. I was teaching a cooking class once and when I went to cook beans that I had soaked overnight somebody commented, "I thought beans came in cans". Sadly, this is the relationship many people have with the foods they consume.

My personal journey with food began with a health issue I had in my late teens. I was diagnosed with an underactive thyroid and told I would be dependent on medication for the rest of my life. As a young person, I was not thrilled with this idea, so I decided to seek out alternatives. In the days before Google and living in rural Ireland where we were not quite up to speed with the latest in alternative medicine, I was a little challenged.

On a visit to Dublin, I came across a macrobiotic restaurant that had just opened, and I talked to a person working there about my health issue. They recommended that I cut down on dairy products, sugar and red meat and eat whole grains, beans, vegetables and seaweed, as it contained iodine, a vital nutrient for thyroid health. I persuaded them to give me a job in the restaurant and quickly embraced a whole new way of eating.

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