We interview Lina Escandell from the Stone Mill of Sant Miquel

AARTI Magazine wants to tell our readers this beautiful story. Great news for the culture and tradition of Ibiza.

Hello Lina! Joan Escandell Escandell, your father, at the age of 79, finally gave you the baton of the family’s stone mill last year. So, you belong to the third generation to take over the mill. How do you feel about that?

It is fulfilling a dream. Since I was little I was always nearby the mill with my grandfather. The years went by and it seemed that I was never going to take over the mill. As a result of the coronavirus crisis, my husband and I started going to Sant Miquel, because we did not want my father to go alone. We learned how to run the mill, we fixed it up and my father could see that we were capable of running it. Since then we have not stopped working on it.

The mill was built more than 80 years ago by your father’s uncle Antonio Escandell. It was located in the town of Sant Miquel, in Sa Font d’es Tur. At the end of the 50’s, the mill changed its location to the current one. What was the reason?

In the 1950s, the force of the water that ran to the Font d’es Tur began to decrease, which led the family to the decision to move the mill to the city of Sant Miquel (its current location – Carrer d’Eivissa nº 9). Since initially there was no electricity in the town, it worked there with diesel. With the advent of electricity, the mill began to run on electrical power.

It is a traditional stone mill to grind grain and turn it into flour. Can you explain to us how it works?

The mill basically has three parts. The first one is called “sa tremuja”, which is where the grain that is going to be ground is deposited. The second part is made up of the elevator that carries the grain directly between the two stones, one of these stones is fixed and the other one rotates, so the grain is crushed and the flour comes out (depending on the regulation established it turns it into more or less fine flour). Finally, from between the stones the flour passes through a conduit, which is the last part, and falls directly into the flour sacks.

Back then, keeping the mill going meant working day and night, but it was a profitable business for the family, right?

During those times, the “payeses” needed to grind their grain to make their own bread and to feed the animals that need thicker grain. My father tells me that luckily there was always a queue of people waiting, and the activity was profitable enough to support the family.

During the arrival of the 1970s and the touristic boom, how did this new situation affected millers?

The arrival of tourism meant a significant decline in the activity of the mill. Many migrated from the countryside to the hospitality industry. Even my father decided to leave the mill in the hands of his father-in-law (Vicent Escandell) to dedicate himself to being a coach driver for 17 years.

As far as we know, in the 90s your father finally left the bus to resume the activity of the mill. What was the reason? Do you remember how that comeback was like?

When my grandfather grew older, my father decided to take over the mill again. Little by little he began to grind for the ovens. The first to decide to make bread the way it was done in the old days was Can Covas oven, after that, others followed.

What is the difference, in terms of quality, of grinding wheat in an artisanal way and making «real bread from the old days» to other industrialized breads?

The main difference is that the other flours are highly refined and some are chemically treated, so when you make bread with this type of raw material, the next day it gets hard. On the other hand, as our flour does not undergo any type of treatment and it is natural, the result is a peasant bread that can last perfectly between five and six days.

Until 2021, the xeixa wheat was taken to be grinded to a stone flour mill in Valencia. Currently, xeixa wheat crops can be ground in Eivissa in your mill. Correct?

Indeed, until the 2020/21 campaign, the xeixa wheat had to be taken to a stone flour mill in Valencia. Precisely in 2021 our Sant Miquel mill got its sanitary registry, in order to guarantee food safety. This allowed the new wheat crops to be milled here in Eivissa. This is also appreciated by the ovens included in the xeixa wheat recovery project. Everything that means recovering the flour obtained in an artisanal way, as has been done for thousands of years in the Mediterranean, has a especial value. For this 2022, the xeixa wheat harvest is expected to be very good. In addition, another good news is that many people are already asking for it.

What does it mean for you to recover a variety and a traditional flavour of Ibiza?

As I was saying, in 2019 the Consell Insular d’Eivissa started a campaign to recover xeixa wheat, with the participation of the Pimeef Association of Bakers and Confectioners and the Santa Eulària des Riu Cooperative. The participating ovens are: Can Coves, Can Blay, Can Bufí, Can Noguera, Gatzara, Samos Deli, Es Brot and Es Raconet.

Recovering this soft wheat, in addition to revaluing a traditional variety, also means recovering an authentic flavour that creates jobs and a differentiated product. We all win, “payeses”, millers and bakers. The cultivation of cereals also means fighting against the abandonment of the dry land and against fires.

Since the thirties of the past century, your family has taken over the mill. Surely you have many anecdotes that go around it. Can you share any special memories you have from your childhood?

I have beautiful memories, what I remember most and with great affection is when the “payeses” came with their wooden cars, mules and horses. Marc was in Sant Miquel the blacksmith, and while the peasants waited for the grain to be ground, they took the opportunity to put the horseshoes on their horses.

They say that crisis always bring new opportunities and open doors… How did you convince your father to finally «let go» of his mill?

As I told you at the beginning of the interview, with the arrival of the pandemic, we started going to the mill and my father showed us how it works. Little by little he realized that we could do the job well, and he was convinced that it was not true that «it was not a job for women»… and that I can do it.

What future plans do you have?

This year we will begin to introduce the product ourselves in some supermarkets of San Miguel, Santa Gertrudis, San Antonio Cooperative and Santa Eulalia Cooperative. Likewise, I am not the type of person who looks at things in the long term, I am more of the present, of the day to day. I like to have my feet on the ground.

Thank you very much Lina for this interesting interview and for sharing this new challenge in the stone mill. Those of us who love this island value and appreciate the commitment to recover the culture and traditions of Ibiza.

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