Gourmet breakfast, Manzanar, and shake shack road trip in Nevada and California

As the sun rose in the east, a gentle ray of sunlight peeked through the windows at the Cobb Mansion. I decided to get ready and head downstairs to hang out with Paul in the kitchen while he prepared a gourmet breakfast. As I tip-toed downstairs, not wake the other guests up, I could already sense the aroma of baked goods. The formal dining room was set perfectly as if royalty was expected. As I came into the kitchen, Paul pulled the brioche from the AGA Range with shiny, dark brown exterior. Cinnamon rolls were proofed in the wine cooler overnight and were ready to be baked. Parfaits were being assembled in the butler’s pantry. After the cinnamon rolls were ready, Paul crisscrossed icing on top. As he cooked, Paul talked about different cooking techniques he’s picked up over the years on his travels. He loves cooking and could definitely be a chef if he wanted to.

While Paul continued to finish with the breakfast preparations, two fur babies were walking around when the bacon started to cook. These pups are well-mannered and so cute. One of them was relaxing in the living room as I snapped a photo.

At 8am, Paul rang the “Hop Sing” gong and breakfast was served. The brioche had a nice crispy outer layer with chewy interior. The cinnamon roll was fluffy and packed full of cinnamon and sugar goodness. A parfait of strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, honey Greek yogurt, and homemade granola were layered in a crystal wine glass. The fruits were ripe, juicy, and sweet. The Greek yogurt added a creamy texture to contrast the crunchy texture of the nutty granola. Eggs Benedict was beautifully plated with smoked salmon, poached egg, homemade hollandaise sauce, bacon, and edible flowers from their herb garden. It was the nicest and fanciest breakfast I’ve ever had.

After breakfast, Paul prepared the 1950 Chrysler Town and Country as the rest of the guest picked out a hat for a tour around town. Unfortunately, we were unable to partake since we needed to hit the road for our long journey back home. We packed up the car and we were on our way.

About 4 hours south of Virginia City on Highway 395 is the Manzanar National Historic Site. We had seen it on the way up to Virginia City and wanted to stop. It was a little past high noon when we arrived, the sun shone bright and it was a very hot summer day. In 1942, the U.S. government order more than 120,000 Japanese American citizens and resident aliens (men, women, and children) to leave their homes and were detained in remote, military-style camps. Manzanar Relocation Center was one of ten camps where they were interned during World War I. The original barracks are long since gone, but the National Park Service rebuilt three of them in Block 14 to show you what they looked like inside and out. As I walked through the first barrack, I could feel the heat just blazing through the walls. The windows really didn’t help to keep it cool as the air outside was hot as well. I closed my eyes and imagined what it would have been like with bunks stacked closely together and so many families packed inside. Being of Japanese descent myself, I could not imagine losing my home and living in a space the size of a closet. There were no interior walls so simple privacy became a luxury. Most lived here for 3 years with hot summers and cold winters.

  • Tip: When in a national park or historic site, treat it as if you were in a library. Use low voices and respect the exhibits and land. There are many families of internees that visit here to pay respect to their family members.

The mess hall was a building just like the barracks but instead of bunks, there were picnic tables and kitchen at one end with cafeteria-style service. Food at the camp was diverse with many Nisei (second generation) favored hamburgers, hot dogs, and soda pop. Most Issei (first generation) preferred soba (buckwheat noodles), sukiyaki (beef stew), and tea. Even though the army concluded that it would be impossible to satisfy both groups, on January 1, 1944, a “full Japanese Meal” was served to the remaining 5,549 internees including mochi (pounded-rice cakes) and ozooni (soup). But every day meals were not like that:

  • On Tuesdays, they served what was nicknamed “slop suey” because the food was soup-like and runny.
  • Boiled mutton was another meal that when prepared smelled like urine and was hard to digest. The grade of meat was a grade below what was provided to U.S. soldiers, even though the WRA employed Japanese American “cowboys” to manage a 200 head of cattle at Manzanar.
  • Some chose to just eat rice with shoyu (soy sauce).

Internees pickled, dried, and stored a variety of vegetables. Root cellars stored excess from bumper crops, while Manzanar’s livestock fed on locally grown feed. There was an early version of a CSA between War Relocation Centers. For example, Manzanar would send carloads of carrots, swiss chard, honeydew, and watermelon to Tule Lake. Tule Lake would send back carloads of cabbage, turnips, and spinach to Manzanar.

1,100 internees worked in mess hall. Various jobs included chef, time checker, waitresses, cooks, cooks helpers, kitchen helpers, and dishwashers. Japanese American teenagers earned $12 per month as kitchen helpers in the staff mess hall.

Here’s the schedule of a typical day in the mess hall:

  • 3:30am – Eggs gathered at the chicken ranch
  • 4:00am – Tofu staff begins daily production
  • 4:30am – Breakfast chefs begin cooking
  • 7:00am – Breakfast served
  • 9:00am – Garbage collected to feed hogs
  • 10:00am – Morning meal served for infants and toddlers
  • 11:30am – Early lunch served to hospital, police, fire department staff
  • 12:00pm – Lunch served
  • 2:00pm – Afternoon meal served for infants and toddlers
  • 3:00pm – Fresh tofu café served
  • 4:00pm – Garbage collected to feed hogs
  • 5:00pm – Evening meal served for infants and toddlers
  • 5:30pm – Dinner served
  • 8:00pm – A mess hall might host a dance, movie, or meeting

The Manzanar cemetery is a grim reminder that Japanese Americans died in the camp. A monument built by Ryozo Kado remains. Strings of origami and offerings have been left by survivors and visitors.

As we left the grounds, an elevated guard station serves as a reminder that this was a prison for many Japanese Americans who lost everything and had to rebuild their lives once WWII was over.

Fifteen minutes south of Manzanar, it was time to stop for gas and lunch in Lone Pine, CA. Frosty Chalet serves up burgers, cones, and shakes. They have a small interior seating area with A/C unit. We got some Double Cheeseburgers, Onions Rings, and large sodas. It was so hot at Manzanar, a large ice cold soda really hit the spot. The Double Cheeseburgers were pretty good for a road side stand. The patties were grilled on a flat-top making a nice caramelized outside topped with a good amount of lettuce, tomato, and pickles. The onion rings serving was a little small with only 7 rings to share. Probably would get fries next time.

Three and a half more hours and we were finally home. This road trip was filled with adventure, historical sites, lots of fun, and great food. I can’t wait until my return to Virginia City, NV.

To view additional photos, please visit OC Food Diva’s Facebook page.

For more information:

18 South A Street
Virginia City, Nevada, 89440, United States

Trip was sponsored in part by Virginia City Tourism Commission 

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