Story of Stone Mill
Many objects in this tiny village, I came to realize, played much more important roles than I previously thought. For instance, this stone mill. Perhaps there’re other stone mills around the village, but in my childhood mind, this was the only one I could recall.
Without it, we had to turn to the import of commercial grade rice cakes from outside factories.
Without it, there’s a loss of gratification when giving / receiving rice cakes among us, knowing we made these delicacies ourselves.
A Stone Mill
It made this tiny village a well-knitted community and independent. There are several occasions in which this rice mill became a necessary stop for many. One was the Chinese New Year. “Special grandma” would carry a sack of milled rice harvested from the farmland to the rice mill. The stone mill was wetted at first. As “special grandma” turned the stone mill with a T-shaped wooden pole hung from an overhead beam of the house. This enabled the milling to be done in a back-and-forth movement of the laborer, instead of grabbing onto the stone mill and walk around it circularly. This is similarly seen in an internal combustion engine in vehicles.
The rice was immediately fed to the mill through the entry hole from the top. As the rice was making its way to the outer edge of the circular mill from within, it was gradually crushed into a thick paste that flowed along the outer circular channel to the exit. This rice paste was collected using a cloth sack. Within a day the water content of the rice paste would leak out, leaving in the sack a thicker rice paste, which would be steamed with cane syrup and jujube (similar to dates, but it has a very distinct flavor, nothing else came close to it, IMO). It was always exciting to man the stone mill, so I gave it a try whenever there’s a chance. Later, when no longer a little boy, I was able to lift the top of the stone mill, examining the intricate pattern between the millstones, something hidden to my childhood eyes.