That’s the seven-story ConAgra grain mill, and it was detonated by 7-year-old Make-A-Wish kid named Max. Make-A-Wish flew Max and his family from California to the small town of Huron, Ohio, just so he could push the big, red button. And that was only the culmination of days filled with explosive fun, because Max also prepared for the demolition by watching tons of videos of buildings being destroyed, helped place the dynamite into the building’s support columns, and even got to take the local bomb squad’s remote-controlled robot for a spin, yelling, “Fire in the hole!” before remotely shotgunning a root beer bottle.
About 30,000 locals showed up to watch the explosion, because what else is there to do in Huron, Ohio? Oh, and apparently some believe that the ConAgra building was haunted, so it’s possible that meddling Max blew up a ghost.
Today, the treadmill is one of the most common ways to get in your weekly workout, but did you know that in the 1800s, treadmills were created to punish English prisoners?
The original version was invented in 1818 by English engineer Sir William Cubitt. While the prisoners stepped on 24 spokes of a large paddle wheel, the rotation made gears pump out water, crush grain, or power mills, which is where the name “treadmill” originated.
In the ten years since Hurricane Katrina, what has plagued me most is the unfinished business of it all. Why is my brother Carl still babysitting ruins, sitting on the empty plot where our childhood home used to be? Why is my seventy-four-year-old mother, Ivory Mae, still unmoored, living in St. Rose, Louisiana, at Grandmother’s house? We call it Grandmother’s even though she died ten years ago. Her house, the only one remaining in our family, is a squat three-bedroom in a subdivision just off the River Road, which snakes seventy miles along the Mississippi, where plantation houses sit alongside grain mills and petrochemical refineries.
A Chinese Song Dynasty (960-1127) image of a water mill for grain, emblematic of the degree of economic, technological, and industrial sophistication on medieval China – in many ways the most advanced economy and technology in the world before northern Europe in the 1700s.
One of my favorite Xmas gifts came in the form of the attachment for my Kitchen Aid Artisan mixer. Can anyone guess what it was? No, not the pasta maker I already mentioned…Give up? It was a grain mill!
One of the things that has been a painful realization the past few months is exactly how much all of this GF stuff costs. I mean seriously - it is practically 50c an ounce for flour mixes! That is sooooo much more than a 5lb bag of flour costs! And of course, now that I can’t have traditional bread stuffs, I have been craving baked goods - hence, my purchase of GF flour stuffs.
I initially started buying the pre-blended flour mixes (Bob’s Red Mill, etc.). However, the new cookbooks I have been working through (another xmas gift from my DH) mentioned that there is no truly great pre-blended flour - that flours should be altered based on what you are cooking. I don’t know if I totally believe it (laziness will always win in the end), but I am willing to try making my own flour blends (mostly because of the costs, as I mentioned previously). So, after I ran out of the pre-blended flour, I bought bags of individual blend components - rice flour, tapioca flour, potato starch, buckwheat flour, teff flour, almond flour…I am sure I am missing a few components there… You know all that room I had in my pantry from cleaning out the gluten free stuff? It has now been filled. (And so has my fridge, in which I am also keeping GF flour mix stuffs.)
Each of the flour blends in my cookbooks makes about 10 cups or so of flour, and practically uses a whole 22oz bag of rice flour. So, after I had gone through a couple of bags of rice flour (and tried to much avail to find pre-ground millet flour in my local stores), I decided I was going to take the next step and get a grain mill (which was actually given to me by my parents - how thoughtful of them)!
This week, I have been putting my new favorite kitchen toy through its paces. I started by grinding millet flour - which turned out perhaps to be not the best grain to grind first. For those of you unfamiliar with millet, it is very small, very hard little grains, which take forever to grind in the grain mill. But my awesome mixer pulled through (with multiple breaks and ample time to avoid overheating the motor), and I now have a quart sized bag of millet flour I consider millet gold - I mean, it is golden in color after all.
I have subsequently started grinding rice - I bought an entire 5 lb bag of rice at the grocery store for this exact purpose. Let me be the first to say that grinding rice is much easier than grinding millet! My awesome mixer can plow through a hopper of rice in about 10 minutes! I am on my second quart size bag of rice flour, and have been grinding a little every evening this week in anticipation of refilling my now empty container of rice flour blend A (as my cookbook calls it).
[The picture below shows the grain mill at work, grinding rice. My engineering mind was curious that the rice flour is not evenly distributed throughout the chute, but instead comes out on either side (which you probably can’t very well see since the image isn’t totally in focus).]