Sunday, September 25, 2016

Throwback Sunday - Unsolved Mystery of the Cheesequake

Today, I repeat a blog about a bit of a mystery.  It's actually partially solved, although I still don't know how the locals pronounce it.

It's a simple question - or is it?

The Unsolved Mystery of the Cheesequake

Today's trivia question:  What is a Cheesequake?  I originally asked this question in 2010, after attending a wedding out of town.  I never found out.  So, four years later, I am hoping you, my blog readers, can help me.

Is a cheesequake
a.  What Wisconsin natives yell when the earth moves under their feet?
b.  A San Francisco boutique cheesecake (now renamed) producer?
c.  A Washington State cheeseburger? or
d.  A New Jersey toll road service area?

If you answered "c", you've taken too many "How to Ace the SAT" review courses.

The correct answer, of course, is b, c and d.  And thereby hangs a tale.

b.  San Francisco Cheesequakes ("Cheesecakes that Rock")had the most intriguing sounding cheesecakes, not that I've ever had one, so this is not a plug.  Apparently, since 2010, the company has been renamed and is now called San Francisco Cheesecake Company - ah, well. 

c.  How about a Double Cheesequake at the X Earthquakes Biggest Burgers in Pullyap, Washington?  (And, are they still in business?)

d.  The New Jersey Cheesequake.  There is my mystery.

In July of 2010, spouse and I traveled to the Jersey Shore from the Binghamton, New York area.  This involved travel on the Garden State Parkway, known as the country's busiest toll road.  We had been warned about the traffic and we already knew how aggressive and high speed the driving would be, so neither came as a shock.  We proceeded through The Oranges and The Amboys when to our wondering eyes did appear, near exit 120....

The Cheesequake Service Area.


Spouse and I turned to each other simultaneously.  What was a Cheesequake?  We pondered various answers.  A strange New Jersey restaurant chain?  A former cheese factory that had exploded and was now a historical site?  Some kind of corrupted Native American word?

Our wonder grew as we passed by a sign for Cheesequake State Park.

Turns out spouse's guess of a corrupted Native American word was correct.  My spouse, however, speculated that "Cheesequake" came from the same word that Chesapeake (as in Chesapeake Bay) derived from.  That apparently is not the case, according to what I was able to research back then.  If my sources are correct, Chesapeake comes from a Algonquian word meaning a village "at a big river" while Cheesequake comes from a Lenape word for "upland village".

Drawing from my (too long ago) college anthropology courses, I recalled that the Lenapes (formerly known as the Delaware) are part of a much larger Native American group-age called the Algonquians.  So, there may still be some truth to this speculation.

At any rate the word has nothing to do with neither cheese nor earthquakes.

Cheesequake State Park does sound fascinating.  It may even help for me to learn how it is pronounced.

The service area, apart from the full service (mandatory in New Jersey) gas it sold for 20 cents less a gallon than Binghamton gas when we left, was not at all distinguished. 

But still, it left us with a desire to go back and visit the park.  All these years later, it is still a dream.

I have a partial answer since 2010, by the way, about how "Cheesequake" is pronounced.  Enough to know that this website, which postulates "chezquake" still may not be right.

Or, is it?

Dear reader, do you know?


  1. My husband and I know the Cheesequake service area. We always stop there on our way to Cape May. Didn't know the history before reading your posting. I thought it was pronounced as it is spelled. P. x

  2. I didn't know about this till I read your post but probably this... Interesting word really and the history associated with it. I actually read it as cheesecake first and then had to go back again and re-read when I realised it's Cheesequake .

  3. Nope, no idea. Let the speculation begin.

  4. That's an interesting name... it's funny name for a park though... now I too am curious to know more about it. It sounds perfect for a cheese cake factory :)


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