My latest trip was nothing like my time in Kansas. In that state, the cars were few under the sky, whizzing like nuts to remote destinations. Driving across Massachusetts, I could hardly believe how many of us there are, crawling from spot to spot in our cars. The mills were very different, also.
I stopped by Gray’s Gristmill in Adamsville just because I was near. How could I resist taking a peek? Thinking about how many mills used to dot the landscape is a little unbelievable. This is how we got our flour: from great stones with waterpower. In New England, there were tide-powered mills. That we get basic foods so easily now doesn’t seem possible or right.
I like to run my mind over that conundrum, which is why I was thrilled when Kim Van Wormer, the miller at Plimoth Plantation invited me to come make pancakes at their Sampe Fest.
Saturday and Sunday I set up near the water wheel with my electric griddle and made pancakes with Floriani Red cornmeal and rye from Farmer Ground Flour. These are my favorite fall pancakes, so hearty and sweet. Plus they tell a story of what grows here, and how we eat what is available.
Wheat didn’t grow very well in coastal New England, but rye did all right. So the settlers combined it with Indian corn and ate what they could.
The settlers didn’t have a gristmill until 1636, 16 years after they arrived. At first, they would’ve used a mortar and pestle, and then they had a water powered mortar and pestle. Building a large stone gristmill and its protective housing was an expensive project.
Visitors to this mill can get an understanding of my favorite kind of milling, stone milling, and the other ways early Americans, both Native Americans and colonists would’ve processed grains. I love the history work that happens as the wheel turns and the building rattles, and I hope it helps get people’s gears turning in their heads about grains. Plus, you can get stone ground cornmeal!
Follow this link to my recipe for cornmeal rye pancakes. And put this mill on your map of places to visit.