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Probe: June 11, 2001

June 11, 2002

QUESTION: We are former residents of Imperial County living in the Antelope Valley. We still subscribe to the Imperial Valley Press. After 40 years of living in the Imperial Valley we can't do without it. My passion is special quesadillas from the La Hacienda in Imperial. I have pleaded with local Mexican food restaurants to duplicate the recipe but have had no success.

Can PROBE find out how to make special quesadillas? I know PROBE finds people, things and everything else in between. — Nostalgic, Antelope Valley

We know how you feel. Once we called the U.S. embassy in Guadalajara, Mexico. The embassy aide assured us he knew exactly the location of Imperial County.

"I would give my soul for a special quesadilla from Mount Signal," he said. Local tradition is the special quesadilla made its first appearance anywhere at the Mount Signal Cafe.


Our man in Guadalajara grew up in San Diego and his family spent weekends roaming the desert west of Mount Signal.

The first (and the best) quesadilla we ever ate was in 1970 at the old Sombrero Cafe near the Imperial County court building.

But times change. La Hacienda moved out of Imperial in the 1990s and later into the Sombrero location in El Centro.

If you want to make your own special quesadilla, spread soft white Mexican (or grated or melted Monterey Jack) cheese on a raw tortilla. Fold half the tortilla, pinch the unfolded edges and fry in deep hot grease or oil.

Don't put too much cheese in it because too much cheese would make the fried pie too heavy. We think the secret is getting the oil right. If the oil is not hot enough, the crust will be greasy and heavy.

We haven't done this in a long time, but the fat should be a bit over 300 degrees, about the right temperature for cooking raised donuts. Experiment a little.

There are some great cooks out there who know exactly how to make a golden quesadilla high and light as a cloud with a deep pocket you can fill with salsa. We trust they will tell us how to do it.

Now to your second query.

QUESTION: By the way, does Mike James, who used to write PROBE, still work for you? I knew him when I worked in the criminal division of the District Attorney's office. The current PROBE writer is OK but…. — Homesick, Lancaster

There will never be another Mike James, but we try. He left the paper in 1977 and died a few years later.

QUESTION: As you drive north toward Brawley on Highway 86, and you pass the old cemetery, Memory Gardens, there is a clump of trees by the ditch. By those trees I see an object that looks like a coffin. What is that thing? I am sure your spies can tell me. — Loyal Reader, Brawley

If we're wrong we know our spies will set us straight, but we think we have it right. That's one of the old grave vaults stored 40 years ago on the goat and horse ranch next to Memory Gardens.

Don't worry. The vaults were never used in graves, according to Pat Green, who did the maintenance on the Imperial cemetery until he retired after open heart surgery a few years ago.

When Riverview Cemetery in Brawley needed better grave vaults, the Riverview grave digger experimented, making a few of the concrete liners.

People didn't order vaults much in those days, so the Brawley cemetery never sold them and they remained on the ranch north of Imperial.

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