For the second time since being married to Keola, I had the privilege of witnessing a traditional mochi pounding. The setting is different (not Japan), the clothes are different (no kimono) but everything else was the same: wooden rice cooker, large, hollowed out stones bowl, hefty wooden mallets. The men pounded the mochi in the stone bowl with sure hands (one pounding with the mallet, one turning the steaming hot rice (often bare-handed) to ensure a smooth texture (minus smashed fingers). The women took the freshly pounded mochi and hand rolled them into balls, sometimes filling then with the traditional azuki bean or the more contemporary (but divine) peanut butter or nutella (yum!)
As I sat there and watched these mostly Japanese men and women work, I couldn't help but smile at the mothers and daughters, fathers and sons working together, their hands repeating a process that their ancestors brought from Japan a hundred years ago or more. I'm in awe (and in love) with the slowness of it, in a world where you can make mochi in amicrowave. Grandma had been soaking the rice for more than a day before it was steamed, hand pounded and hand rolled.
The unmistakable sense of community prevailed as each family brought their rice to pound and each took turns pounding while the children ran around the yard, pulling each other in red wagons and attempting to eat green tangerines. After the work, we shared a meal and good company, stuffing ourselves with Portuguese bean soup, stew, ham, salad and (of course) rice.
There is just something about keeping something old alive and coming together for a common goal. I am almost half Japanese, but my Japanese grandmothers married Hawaiians so the tradition didn't continue in my family. I'm so glad that I'm married into a family that still carries on this tradition. For the descendants of immigrants who have adopted a new homeland, days like today keep culture alive.