Ice Cream and the Vineyard

My grandmother loved ice cream and wrote of it often in her columns. Below she describes an interesting ice cream shop that I plan on visiting again next week at the Vineyard.


June 1980


A feature story in Time last month covered in detail Americans’ passion for ice cream which reaches its peak in the New England states. They lead the nation in per capita consumption of the sweet confection. Having just spent two weeks in Connecticut and Massachusetts my farmer and I know that New Englanders do, indeed, have this addiction.

Ice cream stores are everywhere to tempt one with their delightful delicacies. One day I polished off 4 double dip cones, each with 2 different flavors of ice cream because I couldn’t choose which one of the beguiling flavors I wanted to lick for my own personal gustatory pleasure. To be perfectly objective I tried all of my top eight favorites and left the rest to be sampled on other days.

It was during the week spent on Martha’s Vineyard, an island 23 miles long and 7 miles wide, located in the Atlantic Ocean about an hours boat ride from Woods Hole, Massachusetts, that I came face to face with the Cadillac of the ice cream business – Mad Martha’s Ice Cream Store.

The owner was driven to writing poetry on his walls to express himself lyrically on the epicurean delight he offered in his store. His listed 35 flavors ranged from plain vanilla to an exotic mixture called heavenly hash. He also specialized in some distinctly peculiar flavors.

I sampled Large Mouth Bass ice cream made, as he bragged, with only the freshest vineyard fish. After tasting this, I personally, would just as soon eat pickled pigs feet ice cream. Wiser from this revolting experience I steered clear of quahog chowder ice cream, chicken noodle ice cream, (boasting the finest white meat of Perdue chicken) and bubble gum ice cream with a wad in every cone.

The store’s prize listing was advertised as a pig’s dinner which you ordered by oinking. It was billed as 1 dozen scoops of ice cream, 2 bananas, hosed down with whipped cream, many cherries, and a nose full of nuts – all this for $9.95.

This type of humor was working. It looked as if every one of the numerous visitors who land on the island daily came in for ice cream.

Getting away from the temptations of the coastal town we decided the island didn’t have much potential for farmland. The sandy soil was covered with scrubby oak trees, beach plums and salt grass. Also, it is a little expensive to farm – the going price is $20,000 an acre. Jackie Onassis had bought 300 acres more or less and built a palatial home on it last year.

In the early days the people on the island made their money from shipping and later the towns and harbors became centers for the whaling industry. The land itself was devoted to grazing sheep and raising grapes for wine.

The greatest attraction now is the ocean and the fragile beauty of the countryside. The bays and inlets are alive with sailing craft and the beaches are full of people when the sun shines.

For me I found the ocean fun, but so cold it took most of the afternoon to muster enough courage to go in. Then when I was in, the rolling waves had a bad habit of knocking me down. On the last day I learned to ride a giant size inner tube through the waves and was beginning to feel like an old salt when it was time to say farewell to the beach and ocean and return to gloriously green Kansas, where the milo had grown a foot taller in our absence.


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