by Heather Hamacek
Feeling very vintage one morning, I put on a swirling polka dot dress, kitten heels, a swipe of red lipstick and set off in search of a milkshake. There are plenty of ice cream shops on the vineyard so a shake isn’t hard to find, but I had something specific in mind. In the mood for sock hops and saddle shoes, I wanted the full diner experience. I knew of one shop, off Main Street in Edgartown, where the black and white checkered floor and teal vinyl bench seats look like they’re right out of the 1940s. Perfect.
It’s no coincidence that milkshakes make me think of mid-century style; that was when diners hit their stride and milkshakes topped the menu. Edgartown Diner, though channeling the style of the 40s, opened in 1989. It has changed names and owners over the years, but kept its retro look and classic menu. I chose a seat at the ice cream bar and scanned the frappé flavors: chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, coffee and cherry. Cherry was calling my name.
While diner co-owner Mavis Hutchinson prepared my frosty treat, I read the tin signs hanging on the wall. “Our coffee is so good, we always drink it ourselves,” “Cola, five cents,” and “As nice as mother makes it, our cooking is the best you can get.”
Mavis tells me the recipe for the cherry shake hasn’t changed in years, though she always adds a little extra ice cream. Two hard scoops of vanilla, a couple pumps of cherry syrup and a splash of milk, then a good long mix with a Hamilton Beach drink mixer, the premier milkshake mixing machine since 1911. Electric mixers are the reason the milkshakes of today are made with ice cream, instead of shaken with milk and crushed ice.
Mavis poured the light pink concoction from a frosty steel cup into a heavy, Y-shaped glass, topped it with a dollop of whipped cream, nestled two maraschino cherries on the sides, and drizzled cherry syrup on top. A few minutes under the drink mixer had whipped air into the drink, leaving it without the heavy feeling of ice cream. I could easily sip the shake through a straw, putting me in danger of a brain freeze as I quickly sucked down the frothy treat. It had a soft flavor and a subtle sweetness, tasting more like the rumor of a cherry than the robustness of the actual fruit.
As I slurped my milkshake, sitting in front of a retired jukebox, browsing the titles that I couldn’t play, I imagined strolling the streets of Edgartown on a hot summer’s day. I told this to Mavis, and she offered to make me one to go.