Monday, July 21, 2014

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 (possibly now out of business) 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") may have gone out of business since 2010.  But back then, their web site  had the most intriguing sounding cheesecakes.  (not that I've ever had one, so this is not a plug.)  Candycap Mushroom Cheesecake, anyone?

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, NY 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 groupage 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 NJ) 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.  Four years later, it is still a dream, but we do want to vacation locally later this summer.  So...

For now - can anyone tell me how Cheesequake is pronounced?  And what the word means?

I know you, my valued readers, won't let me down.


  1. How fascinating! Hilarious how we attribute meanings to words (deriving from our own experiences and understanding) that have no connection whatsoever to the word itself! THANKS for sharing. HUGS <3

  2. Ha ha! Loved this! For several years we used to travel to NJ to visit my in-laws and we'd pass through Cheesequake. I just loved the name, and it always gave us a laugh to see it. I have no idea whether it's pronounced any differently or what it means, but I just enjoy it. Thanks for the memory and the smile today.

  3. Ha! We had the same discussion in our car on the way to Wildwood a few weeks ago. My husband, a native Jersey boy, says it is pronounce "Chez-quick." However, he did not know why it is called that. Thanks for enlightening us!

  4. Hey Alana

    Thanks for sharing another funny and fascinating memory! I have no idea how "Cheesequake" is pronounced, but you have certainly aroused my desire to check it out!


    Keep doling out such delicious 'slices of your life' (I take no credit for this phrase! ;) )

    Much love

  5. Totally beyond me I am an Aussie

  6. I enjoyed reading those words, I didn't know that it has actually meaning and history. Great post!

  7. Fascinating! I've never even heard the word before. I'm curious about it now.

  8. MUSHROOM cheeseqake? Now that's very different! I have to admit that I hadn't heard about it until now. (Perhaps it's because I'm English!)
    I'd love to see pictures!

  9. Oh, how I wish I could still eat cheesecake. You have me yearning for a piece, but I've been dairy intolerant since 2007. You enjoy some for me, okay?~~Dee


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