While the LONG BEACH FROM HOME does not always link to various social media, it has remained maintained a few times per month. I do not write as often as I would like… But I have filled this space with many more words than I anticipated when I started the blog. Just because I didn’t show on your news feed doesn’t mean I wasnt scraping together various thoughts of the week previous or recapping frustrating meetings. This entry goes Back to the Future to recall a mission to California last October when reality began to sink in that this move was actually gonna happen…
Thanks to the power of Facebook and word-of-mouth, I learned there was another recent transfer from suburban Chicago to southern California. He put me into touch with a realtor who helped with my apartment search. I was apprehensive about scouring Craigslist from 2000 miles away and sought someone with local expertise and knowledge to put me into a decent, affordable apartment. I had a long list of requests and wanted something comparable to my palatial estate in Arlington Heights. I learned quickly those desires were unreasonable and that my new abode would likely be significantly smaller, more outdated, and higher cost than where I had been living. Ultimately I wanted a place where I knew where my car was parked and could do laundry on the premises and reside as close to the ocean as possible. What was the point of moving to California if I wasnt able to capture postcard-worthy memories from my apartment?
The early Friday morning drop-off at O’Hare was emotional, even if it was to be just a quick weekend trip. We knew the purpose for this flight to Orange County. I plugged in my soundtrack and held off the emotion and anxiety of flying and caught a few minutes of sleep. I knew I was going to have a long day traveling throughout OC and LA in hopes of finding the perfect place. In fact, I was confident that I WOULD find the best apartment ever on Friday and that the rest of my weekend could be spent leisurely enjoying the California scenery.
I picked up my brown (?) Chrysler 200 rental car and checked in at Hotel Huntington Beach, where I would get settled before meeting the realtor. I brought my leather-bound portfolio packed full with various apartment descriptions. I met the realtor int he hotel parking lot and we were off: Zigzagging back and forth, up and down the 405 and the 22 and PCH. I would eventually learn to better understand the interstate vernacular. Most of the search focused in Huntington Beach but we also saw units up the coast in Seal Beach and Long Beach.
Two of my favorite properties viewed Friday were in Long Beach and both were beyond my means. The first was blocks from the ocean in a beautiful high-rise building with all the modern amenities including stainless appliances and laundry inside the unit. The building had secure parking and lovely outdoor courtyard. There was also a fitness center, if you’re into that sorta thing. The second unit was closer to downtown Long Beach in the up-and-coming Promenade area and over-looked a strip of bars and restaurants. It was a brand new building with beautiful hardwood floors and third story view of downtown. This was the last property we would see today, and it was an exhausting day of “I’m not sure” and “I think this costs too much.” I stood with the realtor on the balcony contemplating the decision and we both noticed the DOLLAR TACOS sign emblazoned above Leo’s. Maybe the rent was too high the realtor said. Maybe I would have to cut some costs the realtor said. Maybe I’d be VIP at Leo’s for DOLLAR TACOS the realtor said…
Saturday was to be more of the same, after a late night of craft beers and sausage at Congregation. We had another fresh batch of listings to review and visit in-person. Most of today’s search was centralized in Huntington Beach. So many dudes. So many kiosks for necklaces and boardshorts. So many outdated units with bad carpeting and mis-matched window treatments. We viewed the fifth apartment of the day early afternoon when the realtor proclaimed, “That’s it.” Wait. No more places to see? I’m supposed to choose where I’ll live based on the last twenty-four hours of mind-numbing, head-scratching viewings? Should I choose the motel-style place that over-looked the sketchy discount grocery store? Perhaps the carpeted unit that smelled like feet. Or maybe I would scratch enough loose change together to live somewhere slightly out of my budget.
I got back to the hotel having completed the search and reality began to set in. A minor melt down occurred. I lost the smoothie I enjoyed earlier in the day and had no other appetite. How did I think I was capable enough to pull off this cross-country move? Where was I going to live? If I don’t find anything during this visit, will I have to return once more before moving? Live in a hotel? Crash on a new friend’s couch? My head was spinning with the possibilities and none seemed especially exciting. The idea of moving to California was supposed to be bikinis and palm trees, not gray hair and homelessness.
Sunday was the end of my trip. I left the morning for some independent apartment searching while still in town. I checked out of my hotel and headed for Long Beach. But Long Beach was on lock-down for the LB Marathon. Roads were closed in every direction, and no matter where my GPS instructed me to go. I eventually made it into town and parked inside a private garage where I had previously viewed an elite apartment. I walked some of the grounds near the finish line of the event, then headed back south towards the airport. I aimlessly strolled on the Huntington Beach pier, contemplating my thoughts, wondering what was next. After realizing I hadn’t yet eaten, I grabbed a burger and a beer at Sandy’s, but hardly forced down half while watching the Raiders game at the bar. I boarded my flight home to Chicago, full with nervousness and anxiety. I’m not sure if all of the butterflies in my stomach was what got me sick on the plane, or if that was just being crunched next to a heavy old lady devouring a bag of sour cream ‘n’ onion chips. Woof.
The Corrupt and Ruthless Californian Who Gave Us The Name For Monterey Jack Cheese
Cheese predates written history. Ancient Egyptians loved cheese so much that depictions of the cheese-making process were painted in tombs. Homer’s Odyssey talks about how Cyclops stored his cheese. The Greeks and Romans used cheese as a delicious currency. During the Middle Ages, if there was cheese on the dinner table, it meant the family was of at least moderately wealth. (For more on all this, see: A Brief History of Cheese) While cheese has been around for ages, many cheeses we eat today were invented over the last five hundred years. A few were even invented in the United States, Monterey Jack cheese being one of them. So, how did Monterey Jack get its unique name? Before we get into that, we must go back about three hundred years to the Spanish monasteries of California.
In the 18th century, Spanish missionaries began their takeover of California. It was on July 16, 1769 when the first Catholic mission was founded at present-day San Diego. Over a sixty year period starting in 1769, twenty-one outposts were settled by Catholic priests of the Franciscan order to spread their beliefs among the local population. The second one established, after San Diego, was in today’s Monterey, California.
The Spanish missionaries’ very much desired to be self-sufficient. Although they didn’t quite achieve this (some financial support came from the “Pious Fund of Californias” established in 1697 by Spain; later, this would become the subject of litigation between the US and Mexico), they brought supplies, foodstuffs, seeds, and livestock into California never before seen in the Americas. For example, grapes, apples, and figs were grown for the first time in this part of the world at this time. These fruits had originated in Asia, but had come over to Europe before this as a product of trade. Oranges (also originally from Asia) actually were planted for the first time in North America in the Gulf Coast and Caribbean regions about 150 years prior (approximately in the early 17th century) , but made their first appearance on North America’s west coast due to Spanish missionaries.
Livestock, like cattle, were also part of the European colonization of America. Arriving in the mid-17th century from Europe, cattle were a huge food and supply source (e.g. leather) for the settlers. Of course, milk also came from these cows. Any fresh milk that wasn’t used was preserved by converting it into cheese.
In Monterey, the cheese they made was soft, creamy, and light and became part of the Spanish missionaries’ regular diet. They called it, “Queso blanco pais,” or “the country peasant white cheese.” Hence, the Monterey part of the name “Monterey Jack,” with the town itself named after the viceroy of New Spain, Gaspar de Zúñiga Acevedo y Fonseca, the 5th Count of Monterrey. (The latter “Monterrey” ultimately derives from the Galician “Monterrei,” essentially meaning “mountain king.”)
But what about Jack?
Fast forward about seventy years, to 1841, when a Scottish immigrant by the name of David Jack arrived in New York. He became a storekeeper with his two brothers, who had already been in America. It’s not clear exactly what their store sold, but at some point they became army contractors and hosted military personal, including one Robert E. Lee.
Apparently unsatisfied with store life and having heard about the great fortunes to be made in the California Gold Rush, in 1848, Jack made his way west. Before he left, though, he bought $1,400 (about $37,169 today) worth of revolvers in hopes of selling them out west to “law-abiding and lawless alike.” He did exactly that and made a heady profit. His gold speculating wasn’t as profitable, though, and like so many others he moved to San Francisco to try to make ends meet. He became a customs agent and found his way to Monterey on a business trip. Jack fell in love with the central coast town and officially moved there, but he struggled. In fact, he went back to Scotland for a year when his father passed away. But he returned, determined to become a rich member of the community.
In 1821, Mexico gained their independence from Spain after an eleven year war to earn the right. In order to encourage expansion, the Mexican government continued what the Spaniards had started by issuing land grants, or ranchos, to individuals. These individuals were allowed to settle, farm, and use the land however they sought fit. In 1846, only twenty-five years after Mexico’s independence, the US Army invaded the Mexican territories of New Mexico and California and the Mexican-American war began. This wasn’t the first time the United States had forcibly tried to take land from Mexico. In 1845, America had “annexed” Texas. Within twenty-two months, the US had won the war and their territorial expansion to the Pacific Coast was complete.
The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo allowed at least somewhat of a conciliatory end to the war. The treaty called for several major concessions on both sides. Mexico was to cede California, New Mexico, and the rest of Arizona to the US, plus it recognized the US’s claim to Texas. In return, the US would pay Mexico $15 million (about $398M today), offer citizenship to any Mexican living in those lands, and still uphold the rancho system set up by the Mexican government. While these promises, in theory, were kept, the United States government found a way around that last provision.
US government-run commissions were set up to determined who actually owned the ranchos. The rancho owners were forced to provide documentation, deeds, and records in order to prove that this was their land. Many could not do this due to the years that had passed since coming into ownership and the lack of need for this type thing while Mexico was still in charge. Historians believe that this was a simple US-controlled land grab, taking land by instituting rules and regulations that were unfair to ranch owners.
In 1853, with the US still sorting out all the land grants, the pueblo of Monterey attempted to make its claim that the land belonged to the town, not the US government. They hired Delos Rodeyn Ashley as their lawyer. He would later to go on to be California’s treasure and a Nevada Congressmen. He actually won their claim for them, but demanded nearly a thousand dollars in fees. The town was broke and was forced to auction off its lands anyway to pay Ashley.
On February 9, 1859 at 5 pm, the auction commenced. The sole bidders were Ashley and David Jack. They purchased every single inch of land in Monterey that day, nearly 30,000 acres, for $1002.50. Thus, Ashley got his money from the city, and then some when he later turned over his rights to the land to Jack. It was not hard to believe that this was some sort of set-up. A suit concerning the auction and subsequent purchase went all the way to the Supreme Court and became known as “The Rape of Monterey.”
David Jack quickly profited on his purchase through farming, grazing, and charging obscene taxes on those who had built on it. He was ruthless. Jack acquired even more land and immediately began foreclosing on properties. He did this by posting foreclosure notices on hard-to-find parts of individual properties and in a different language- as in, if it was a Mexican owner, the notices were in English. If they were English-speaking Americans, they were in Spanish.
These lands hosted many types of business that Jack now “owned,” including 14 different dairies that were operated by Spanish and Portuguese dairymen within the Monterey lands. When they had excess milk, they preserved it by turning it into cheese, the special “Queso blanco pais,” or “the country peasant white cheese,” much like their missionary forefathers. Well, since Jack co-owned these dairies, he claimed this cheese as his own. He slapped his name on it and called it “Jack’s Cheese.” Soon, the cheese began selling across California and the west coast. In order to identify where it came from, people began calling it “Monterey Jack” cheese. As you can imagine, David Jack was just fine with this.
To this day, it’s still called Monterey Jack cheese and derivatives, such as Colby-Jack (a mixture of Colby and Monterey Jack cheese) also exist, an homage to a ruthless, corrupt California landowner who claimed an old cheese recipe as his own.