Every year our family makes mochi (sticky rice cakes). I write about it most years and most years I could probably just cut and paste the story that goes with the pictures as it is always the same. The same arguments about what time to start, the same arguments about whether the rice is actually cooked enough, the same arguments about why no one is squatting at the tiny cloth covered table in the garage with the wind howling around them at exactly the moment the mochi is ready to be shaped. For a more detailed look into this process you can check out my 2006 blog - Hannah and Amanda, it must be time you came back again! Or for a small look into the more traditional method there is the 2009 blog Of course if you wanted even more of the same there is always the 2007 making, 2008 making, or the 2010 making.
But from last year things have been changing in our family - not something that happens often in a traditional countryside family in Japan! In 2011 we were in New Zealand for Christmas and New Year and therefore unable to help with the annual mochi making. My father-in-law was also in hospital so there was only my mother-in-law, sister-in-law and uncle to do the job. An executive decision was made to buy a machine that basically does the entire process, apart from the shaping - eliminating the need to light a fire and steam all the rice then transfer it to the pounding machine. Unfortunately they didn't bother to read the instruction book though and, from what I heard, the first couple of batches turned into a runny glue like mixture.
This year some things were learnt from last year's mistakes and the first batch went wonderfully. Another 45 minutes later the second batch was ready. Another 45 minutes later and it was discovered that the third batch had gone a little wrong and was only partially cooked. Another 45 minutes and a bit more swearing and the next batch was finished. No more mistakes were made, but each batch took at least 45 minutes to go through the steaming and pounding processes. I popped home in between each batch to do a bit more cleaning (well that is what I told them... actually I was having quiet T.V. time by myself!). The last batch was completed at about 2pm. We started at 8am. Conclusion: yes, it was easier than doing it the old way, but far more time consuming!
Our family hasn't quite cottoned on to the fact that people don't come home for the holiday season like they used to in the past and therefore there is no need to actually make a huge number of mochi.... there are still plenty in the freezer from last year... and probably the year before.... Every year I comment that perhaps next year we should cut back on the volume made... every year the volume is identical. I guess some things will just never change!