We conclude the grind machine series, in which we talked about the windmill and the female mill. In this chapter, we are going to focus on the elements of the pre-colonial Canary, which made the gofio the most iconic aliment.
The most primitive item that we find. The first habitants of Fuerteventura, the majos, used them in round or boat shape for grind the seeds that found.
These first mortars were cupped stones, roughly carved, in which they putted the seeds. Then, they used to crush the seeds by hand with a harder stone.
THE HAND MILL
This system is the most long-lived in Fuerteventura history. It was used between since the aboriginal era to the 20th Century.
Two grinding wheels superimposed with a centre hole composed the pre-Hispanic hand mill. The inner side was flat and the outer face was convex. The upper wheel was mobile and worked by hand or with a wooden or bone stick for spinning on the grinding wheel below. This grinding wheel was fixed in the ground by an axis. The grinding wheels had around 30 – 35 cm of diameter and the grinding wheel below was a little smaller than the upper.
To get flour and gofio, the grain was introduced in the upper wheel hole and between the two stone, was crushed. The resultant product dropped down by the sides.
After the conquest, the aboriginal model still working, but a series of improves made the system more sophisticated. The upper grind wheel then had a part made in wood or steel (lavija) whit a hole in its inner side. That hole matched with the one in the stone, by them an iron axis cross from the lower grind wheel. This practical solution prevented the move of the upper grind wheel, the one who rotates.
This kind of mill was placed in a masonry base, and usually in a kitchen corner. The start-up of the hand mill was by a wooden stick, which low side was introduced in a hole made in the upper grind wheel. The other side of the stick was attached in a wooden platform added in the wall, on the high part of the mill.
When the tahona arrived in island, the hand mill was in a progressive disuse, but continue been part of the kitchen.
This machine is a more updated model that to previous ones, because with the tahona could be possible grind big amount of grains to make gofio and flour. Although we cannot compare the tahona with the windmill and the female mill. First because it is earlier in use and for the size, much smaller. Other difference is about the motion. Other difference is about the motion. This machine needs pulling force to activate the grinding mechanism, using in this case the animal draft. All the machinery is adapted for a donkey or a camel.
The structure was made in wood, and for avoid the vibrations of grinding activity it was fixed to the ground. A large cogwheel placed horizontally organized the whole structure. This element rotated on its axis through an element where the animals were hooked, the tracking and movement of a wheel that drives the gears and these turn the grinding stones.
The milling box has a small hopper with an inverted pyramid shape where the grain was added. From the hopper came the canaleja that led the grain to the hole of the movable grinding wheel.
The grinding stones had a circular shape from one meter to one and a half meters of diameter. One was fixed to the ground, and the other was the rotating one. The upper grinding wheel, for being the rotating one, was called volandera or corredera and had a hole through which the grain was introduced.
The larger size of the tahona increase the production of gofio and flour, as we mentioned before. That could not be compare with the production of the hand mill or even with the mortar. As consequence, the people who owned a tahona needed to build new rooms in their homes to locate the machine. This houses usually were bigger and had storage rooms only for the flour and gofio. The owners of tahonas in small communities sometimes provided of flour and gofio for their neighbours.
Centuries later, when the windmill arrived on the island, the tahona continued to be used, especially in those seasons of the year when the winds were not very abundant or strong.