Sunday, August 21, 2011
THE BIG CHEESE
The Mediterranean Market was a long-time landmark in Carmel, California, located downtown at the northwest corner of Ocean Avenue and Mission Street. While the assortment of exotic, imported foods and the aroma of cheeses and salamis and the sawdust on the wood floors made for an interesting experience, the huge cheese that hung in the window was for me by far the market’s most interesting feature. It was the first thing I noticed about the market when I first moved to Carmel in 1963, and there wasn’t a single time that I walked past the middle arched window on the east side with that huge cheese hanging in it that I didn’t contemplate its age and taste.
Like cheese, cities age too, and on my last visit I found that the Mediterranean Market was no more—replaced by a home furnishings store, much to my chagrin. I couldn’t help but wonder about the fate of that cheese. Where would it go? Was it eaten?
As I always do when I visit Carmel, I looked in on my old high school friend, John Z., who is a third generation Carmelite, and who knows everything about that town. Over lunch, I asked him about the big cheese, and his face lit up (he’s a sentimental fool like me.) He told me that the store owner had retired, but the cheese lives on. After lunch, we walked around the corner, and he pointed to a window on the second floor of the building that once housed the Mediterranean Market. Sure enough, there hung the cheese! I would have never noticed it, even though it had only moved about thirty feet from its long-time home in the window. I’m glad it’s still there.