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Monday, December 27, 2004
Sticky mochi binds
Komenaka's mother, Diane, steered clear of the pounding. Instead, she helped mold the mochi into small balls, covered them with rice flour and stuffed them with beans. The finished mochi were placed in parchment-lined boxes for family members to take home.
In about four hours, some 50 pounds of steamed rice was pounded into mochi. A pound of rice makes about 10 mochi -- which were then stuffed or left plain.
When Komenaka was younger, many Hawaii families would gather before New Year's Day to make mochi. But now her family is a rarity.
"We want to keep it up," she said, adding that it is important to include children in the event. "It's another generation entering the tradition."
The youngest to join in the pounding yesterday was 2-year-old Emiko, who timidly admitted she had not yet acquired a taste for mochi. Her 7-month-old sister had rave reviews, though, for azuki beans.
At 63, Mike Tajima is proud to say he has been pounding New Year's mochi since he was a young boy. These days, he is in charge of a more tasking job: adding water and turning the mochi between mallet swings. He said he has never been hit by a mallet, but there were a few close calls.
"It's about the timing," he said, noting that aggressive pounders are the most dangerous.
Tajima has to be cautious, too, with amateur pounders, who can miscalculate their swings. And, he added with a laugh, the family's mallets have to be replaced every year because people crack them on the bowl.
Komenaka also pointed out that the family's mochi-pounding is hardly professional.
Some mochi are extra small, and some very large. The cakes, ideally snow white, have small brown grains running here and there. And one batch of rice was a little harder than it should have been before it was pounded, while some of the mochi was a bit too sticky.
But that does not keep the family from coming together yearly.
"It's another reason," she said, "to come home for the holidays."