Night SkyA beautiful summer night (11 p.m. to be exact) in Drogheda. 

Remember when I first arrived, and I wrote a post about the “Irish diet?” Basically I was amazed that even though I was eating more starch, fat and sugar than ever before, I wasn’t gaining weight. I think at the time (it was still wintery in early March), I chalked it up to the fact that my body – used to the balmy climate of Los Angeles – was working overtime to keep warm in freezing-cold Ireland.

Well, it’s not so cold here anymore. In fact, it seems Ireland is enjoying one of the best summers in recent memory (naturally I am taking full credit for this freakish change of weather pattern). The good news is that we’re having really warm, perfectly-cloudless days and it actually feels like summer. The bad news is that my body is no longer burning calories at twice its normal rate yet I’m still eating like a bear preparing for hibernation. When I recently saw a photo of me that one of my friends had taken, I nearly had a heart-attack. So mortified was I that I actually asked her to remove it from Facebook (thankfully, she did).

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Salad with white beans, prawns, low-fat cheese and cilantro (fresh corriander).

So this week I’m back on track and back to the gym. I’m making lots of salads and veggie-filled dishes with whole grains and lean proteins. It’s a great opportunity to make the most of all the beautiful summer produce hitting the shelves here in Ireland, including baby gem lettuce, locally-grown tomatoes and fresh, bright beetroot. What’s better for a sweet tooth than gorgeous, Irish strawberries? They’re perfect on low-fat vanilla yogurt. I’m determined to cure myself of my recent bad eating habits and am lucky to have a wide variety of fresh foods to choose from.

And speaking of cures: I can’t remember how it first came up, but my friend Sinead told me a story about how her sister, when just an infant, was inflicted with thrush of the mouth. A local woman who had “the cure” for thrush cast it out of her, Sinead claimed. “So you’re saying this woman just did a little magic and it was gone?” I asked, skeptically. “Yes, the woman was born with the ability to cure thrush and she just breathed into my sister’s mouth and it fell right out of her!” I wasn’t aware that thrush manifested itself into a tangible, physical form so this was news to me. Needless to say, I wasn’t convinced.

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Brown bread with avocado, tomato and a soft-boiled egg; baked oven “chips” with lean filet steak. Who said healthy had to be boring?

Sinead, her mother and her sister Aoife all argued that there are people born with “the cure” for various ailments and that I was just being a “scientific person” (Aoife’s words) who couldn’t grasp the spiritual nature of the “gift” (Sinead’s word) of healing that some Irish people are born with. Apparently cousin Ciara has the cure for bleeding, though I think it’s only good on cows. Another woman they know has the cure for colic. Of course when I inquired whether there was anyone with the cure for my chronic hay fever or someone who had the magical treatment for menstrual cramps I was told there was no one (quell surprise!). I find it suspicious that the above-mentioned cures are for babies (who cannot talk to say they feel better) and cows (ditto). I suppose the latter, which involves stopping bleeding, would be obvious but I think it’s common knowledge that blood eventually coagulates and forms a scab, which stops bleeding on its own. It’s not so much a miracle as it is a scientific fact. It also seems that people seek these healers only as a last resort, so it could very well be that the traditional medicine and treatment they were receiving prior to the miracle cure contributed to their sudden recovery.

Of course I got a lot of flak from my faithful friends about my cynicism, and I will admit that I was being especially contrary to get a rise out of them (you know I love ya, even though I think you’re mad!). But in all honesty I don’t believe in these sensational cures and think they are little more than Old Wives’ Tales passed down through the generations combined with the wishful thinking of those who want to be cured (or want their babies and cows to be cured). Perhaps when an Irish healer with the cure for writer’s block appears at my door and performs his/her magic on me with positive results, I will believe. Until then, I will remain stubbornly pessimistic!

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Healthy Prawn Salad Sandwich
(Serves 2)

2 petite baguettes, sliced lengthwise and toasted
½ garlic clove
5 fresh basil leaves
4 tablespoons low-fat natural (plain) yogurt
½ lb of cooked prawns
1 scallion, sliced thinly
½ avocado, sliced
4 cherry tomatoes, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
More fresh basil leaves for garnishing

In a small food processor, blend the garlic clove with the basil leaves until finely minced. Add the yogurt and blend. In a small bowl, combine the yogurt mixture with the prawns and scallion slices and mix until incorporated. Season with salt and pepper. Top the baguette slices with the sliced avocado and tomato. Spoon the prawn salad on top of each baguette and garnish with fresh basil leaf. Enjoy!