Look for the sign off Middle Road
by Alison L. Mead
Islanders often say that it’s the little things that get us through the off-season—the small, simple pleasures that keep us going. One gray day in the middle of February I heard that Mermaid Farm and Dairy in Chilmark was offering a Mango Lassi (a traditional Indian yogurt drink) at their farm stand. Devotees, locals and visitors alike rave about Mermaid Farm’s dairy products, and so, having never had a lassi, I had to try one.
A trip to Chilmark from Oak Bluffs, believe it or not, is my version of an exotic adventure during the quiet lull of the Vineyard’s off-season. Middle Road is one of my favorite roads on the Island—its twists and turns, its hills and farms remind me of growing up in rural northeastern Connecticut.
Amidst the rolling hills and meandering stone walls, sits the small grey shed with green and purple trim. A sign outside nods to warmer months: “Pedestrians and bicyclists receive a 10 percent discount— vegetables only.” Inside, the familiar books,t-shirts, and yarn are on display, along with the big white refrigerator that is stocked year round with the farm’s meat, milk, yogurt, feta cheese, and now, small bottles of mango lassi.
Last year, farm owners Allen Healy and Caitlin Jones experimented with selling yogurt parfaits at farmers’ markets. As a result of their popularity, the couple explored the idea of adding a flavored yogurt to their offerings. “We didn’t want to call it a smoothie,” says Allen, “but we liked the idea of a lassi.”
With the help of summer farmer Bonnie Alexander, who Allen says “fine-tuned” the recipe, the couple was able to find just the right flavor. “It’s hard for us to get a new thing going, especially in the summertime. It was a whole farm process in refining the recipe, but Bonnie made it happen,” he said.
Mango lassi made its debut at the farmers’ market last July. “Everybody loved it,” says Allen. This time of year, Caitlin and Allen make batches of lassi to fill 30 or 40 bottles. In the summer, they will fill at least a few hundred a week.
I put my $6 in the rusty tin can (like many farm stands on the Island, Mermaid Farm operates on an honor system) and logged my purchase in the worn spiral notebook. I placed the lassi gently on my passenger seat and drove it back to my home, where it sat in my refrigerator for a couple days. I was waiting for just the right moment to indulge myself. And then the blizzard came.
I poured the thick, peach-colored drink into my best glass. Made with whole milk yogurt, organic mango puree, organic grape juice and lemon juice, the lassi is sweet, but not too sweet. In fact, the farm recently took the small amount of added sugar out of the recipe. I took one last slow sip, put the cap back on the bottle, and placed it in the refrigerator. The snow would fall for many more hours and this reminder of summer had to last.
It’s the little things that get us through the off-season. Like taking a quiet drive up- Island to visit an old familiar place in search of a new tropical treat.