Sunday, May 2, 2010

May Day Celebration

The celebration of May Day (the first of May) is an old, old, old European tradition with roots all the way back to festivals honoring the Roman goddess of flowers. Since May Day honors beauty, nature, generosity, and life, I would love to bring back the holiday. It isn't celebrated much in the United States (early Puritan settlers deemed the festival too pagan, and that still permeates our culture a bit, despite pockets of May Day celebrations throughout our country's history). I love, too, that May Day was a popular folk celebration in England and Scotland, and to some extent, Ireland. I am always seeking ways to connect Katie to some of her McGaugh history.

When we think of May Day, we think of flowers and maypoles, the May Queen, beautiful dresses, ribbons, flower baskets left as surprises on doorsteps, and feasting. Much of May Day in Europe has now become politicized and associated with worker and labor causes. Yet here in the McGaugh house, we keep May Day focused on its roots: flowers, beauty, Spring. I love the idea of starting the month of May with a heart full of holiday: May is one of my favorite months, for it is our marriage anniversary month. May is such a beautiful time of year, right in the height of springtime.

Since our observation of May Day is so new, our festivities this year were rather simple. I would love to figure out a way to fashion a maypole for next year.

Katie and I made construction paper flower baskets on Friday. We used pipe cleaners for the stems, and Katie loved gluing the flowers parts together and drawing on the basket and adorning it with stickers. We made a basket for Amie and Boppa and one for ourselves.

After she woke up, Katie and I walked over to her grandparents' house to leave them a surprise...

Later that evening, we began our dinner preparations. I have always wanted to cook with rhubarb, and I thought May Day to be the perfect opportunity. Katie is holding two pieces of rhubarb for our rhubarb upside down cake.

Katie puts some of the struesel on the upside down cake.

I have had rhubarb only once in my life, in a pie, and I have never before cooked with it. With sugar and heat, it melts easily enough and, despite looking a bit fibrous, actually has a good mouth feel when cooked. I did taste it raw, however, and I must say that I have never tasted anything so absolutely bitter. I can't imagine how anyone ever decided to eat it initially, and indeed, I have read that the green leaves growing from the stalk are actually toxic. So I suppose its root would have to be bitter as a warning. I can't say that it is my new favorite ingredient, but experimenting is fun. The cake itself struck a harmonious balance with the natural bite of the rhubarb.

Katie and I also made fettucine alfredo, using an alfredo recipe rich in cream and lemon---a tasty combination. I loved the citric acid cutting through some of the silky decadence of the cream. We also served a pork milanese, and Katie loved pounding the pork to a thinner width. I love pounded meat, especially when it is to be breaded. We breaded ours with crumbs, dried basil, fresh thyme, romano cheese, and salt. Alongside, we served a salad with a simple and quick vinaigrette and some bread.

Amie and Boppa came over to share our meal, and we had a peaceful time listening to Ella Fitzgerald and the sounds of birds heading for their nightly nests.

Happy May Day to all!