Welcome to JohnMichaels Pub's Blog

Welcome. I moved to Nashville in 2001, and have be blessed to make some wonderful friends. After moving from a house in Florida, to an apartment in Nashville, I missed being able to entertain groups of friends simply due to lack of space. When I finally decided to make Nashville my home and buy a house here, I wanted a space that friends to gather and socialize in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. The basement in my new house, which opens into the back yard made the perfect space, so JohnMichael's Pub was born. I have made a couple of trips to Ireland since moving to Nashville and loved the atmosphere of the pubs there. So I made my pub to resemble an Irish style pub to give the atmosphere of a local community pubs in Ireland, but of course it is not a true "Pub" (Public house) since it private place for my friends to gather. I plan to use this blog to post thoughts, ideas, recipes and a variety of other things related to my pub and the parties held there. If you see anything here that interests you, feel free to email me. I have a great group of friends that is very diverse, but I am always open to making new friends.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Mayday Celebration 2008
Mayday is quickly approaching, and since I have not posted here in a while, I thought I would post a little about this holiday. Those who know me know I have a Mayday celebration in my back yard each year. It is a simple cookout followed by participating in some traditional mayday activities such as the ribbon dance around the maypole that is a permanent fixture in my back yard and leaping over the mayday fire.

Of all of the “rites of spring” the Maypole seems to be one of the most widely known. Trees represent the vitality and fertility of nature. What better symbol to represent the height of Spring and the bursting forth of new life in the world. The tradition of the maypole dates back to pre roman times in Europe. The tradition was to bring a young tree from the forest and remove all of the branches except those on the top. The adornment with flowers is a roman influence from the festival of Flora. The tradition of the maypole may have originally be a Germanic tradition, it spread to most of Europe by the late middle ages. By the 16th century the maypole was a community symbol in many towns in the British Isles. Many larger towns and cities began to erect permanent maypoles. Puritan influences attempted to wipe out the maypole tradition in England in the mid 1600’s, but the traditions flourished under the rule of the Stuarts. The traditional dance entails ribbons attached to the top of the maypole being held by two circles of dancers (one inside the other) going opposite directions and weaving the ribbons over and under each other as the two circles of dancers weave in between each other, wrapping the pole in colourful ribbons. The pole may also be adorned in flowers and greenery.
A slightly lesser known tradition associated with Mayday is the tradition of fire. In Celtic regions like Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Mann and even Wales the may fire was the central tradition. In old Irish Mayday was Beltene, which meant “bright fire” (now called Beltane). In these regions, the lighting of the community fire was the central tradition. They fire was the symbolic rekindling of the earth after the winter. In Highland areas, there was a tradition of eating custard made from eggs and milk and making cakes of oatmeal (bannoks) which were toasted in the embers of the fire (I have posted a recipe below you can make in the oven or on the griddle). There was also a tradition of leaping over the flame. This has emerged into a tradition of leaping over the Beltane fire to bring good fortune in the coming year. There is a very large festive held in Edinburgh, Scotland each year on the night of April 30th called the Beltane Fire Festival that draws about 12 thousand people.

Another minor tradition is May wine. This also was originally a German tradition. It is simply a sweet new white wine infused with sweet woodruff. The steeping of the woodruff in the wine creates an aromatized wine that celebrates the freshness of spring. In German, it is known as Maiwein. An adaptation of this is the Maibowle (May bowl) in which strawberries and other fruits, and perhaps some sparkling wine may be added to a bowl of the wine to create a punch. I should note here that in large doses Woodruff is toxic due to its coumarin content. It has been banned as an herbal remedy by the FDA, but is specifically cleared for use as an additive to wine when properly prepared (about 1 oz to 750ml of wine –strain it out before serving the wine).

Here is the bannoks recipe that I use. It is a slightly modified from the traditional version toasted in the mayday fire, but, I think, tastes just as good and honors the tradition.

1 cup all-purpose baking flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar (I use raw sugar)
1 cup quick cooking oatmeal, uncooked
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 cup softened butter (the tradition is to use meat grease like bacon grease)
A pinch of salt
1/4 cup milk
Preheat oven to 450F.
Combine flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, and salt in large bowl.
Add butter. Mix with a spoon until mixture is blended and crumbly.
Slowly stir in enough milk to make smooth but firm dough.
Turn dough out on to lightly floured board and knead until dough hold together.
Roll dough 1/3" thick. Cut into 2-1/2" rounds and place on an ungreased cookie sheet about 2" apart. Bake 12-15 minutes or until light brown.