Celebrations

The barbecue season is upon us once again, and Islanders need look no further than local farms and fish markets, and even our own backyards, for ingredients to throw on the grill. We asked local chefs for their tips and takes on what food to grill, where to find it, and preparation how-to’s in order to make the most of the Island’s bountiful harvest.

Max Eagan of Isola

Max Eagan, chief executive chef for the restaurant portion at the new Isola in Edgartown (located in the former Lattanzi’s spot), is an avid fisherman and likes to cook his catch over an open flame. “I keep a small charcoal grill in my Jeep for most of the summer,” he tells us. “You never know when the time comes for a beach lunch, especially as a fisherman.” He prefers charcoal over gas because, “It really makes you connect with the food. You’re cooking more, tending to the coals, controlling heat, and you can always throw some wood chips on there to get a real nice smoky flavor.”

Scup is his first choice for local catch on the grill. They’re easy to catch, prep, season, and can be barbecued whole. “Today,” he says, “I did basil, garlic, crushed red pepper, smoked sea salt, and olive oil.”

Other seafoods found on Max’s grill include clams and scallops. For clams, he recommends, “Dig them, rinse them, and put them on the grill until they pop open. Dip into melted butter and enjoy. Nothing is simpler, more rewarding, and delicious.”

He also provides a tip for grilling scallops without them sticking to the grill. Blanch them for 30 seconds in boiling water, then immerse in ice water. Pat them dry, and season with salt and pepper. Cook on an oiled grate.

Max takes advantage of other Island bounty. He likes local peaches on the grill “…especially if there is some prosciutto laying around to accompany it.” And he likes to split a chicken from The Good Farm and toss that on the fire. “Jefferson Munroe really raises his birds well,” he says. “Nothing beats a local bird. The taste is superior.”

In short, Max is all about locally produced and caught food. “Our Island provides us with tons of beautiful and free foods,” he says. “To not take advantage of them would be a shame.”

Pete Smyth of Slice of Life

When Pete Smyth is not overseeing the menu at Slice of Life in Oak Bluffs, he’s a dedicated family man. Barbecuing enhances that. “I often go to Morning Glory Farm and The Net Result to get stuff when I have time off,” he says. “I usually look for something to grill. I think it tastes better and I can be outside with my kids while I’m doing it.”

And what does he buy to feed a wife and two daughters? “If you’re talking savory, it’s lobster or any local shellfish.” He’ll also opt for chicken or swordfish with a simple marinade made with equal parts of soy sauce and maple syrup seasoned with garlic, salt, and pepper.

Like many of the Island chefs, he prefers charcoal or wood for grilling because of its effect on the flavor of the food. “But,” he admits, “usually due to time, I use gas.”

He recommends having the grill hot and clean. Instead of seasoning the grate by swabbing with an oiled towel, he oils the bristles on his cleaning brush.

And, like a true doting dad, he treats the kids to ice cream. “We are blessed to have so many purveyors of the fine treat,” he says.

Justin Melnick of The Terrace at the Charlotte Inn

After the chaos of cooking at The Terrace at the Charlotte Inn in Edgartown, Justin Melnick likes to take it easy. “Grilling outdoors in the summer should always be fun,” he says. “The food will always taste better on a great day with friends and family.

“Keep it simple,” he continues. “There are lots of great summer vegetables, meats, and fish out there. Find the best ingredients, olive oil, salt, and pepper, and don’t overcook them.

He especially enjoys local sea bass grilled with olive oil, salt and pepper, and served simply with grilled heirloom tomatoes and a cucumber and mixed green salad. For the Island’s fresh local corn, he always grills it in the husk, whether on the barbecue at home or at his work at The Terrace. And he raves about the tomatoes and corn grown on the Island. “You can’t go wrong in the summer,” he says.

He also recommends a simple recipe for the grill – littleneck clams, rinsed and purged, and placed directly on the grill on medium heat until they open. Melt some butter with lemon and herbs, toss together in a bowl (shells and all) and enjoy.

Justin prefers grilling in the comfort of his own backyard, with a cocktail or two for encouragement. The gas grill is his choice “only because I have used it my whole life,” he says. “It’s easier to control the temperature and ready when I need it to be.”

Ron “Puppy” Cavallo of Soigne

The chef usually referred to as “Puppy” is part-owner and cook for Soigne, the market with up-scale carry-out meals on Upper Main Street in Edgartown. He considers grilling such an integral part of cooking that he’s had a built-in barbecue installed off his home kitchen. And while he prefers gas for convenience, he admits that many dishes need the enhancement of charcoal. “Jerk chicken, for instance,” he cites. “It needs the slow smoke.”

He maintains, however, that you don’t need a built-in grill for the best barbecuing and perhaps the great outdoors can be a better choice in the summer. “Grill everything outside,” he suggests. “All meats, fish, veggies, and potatoes. No mess or added heat to the kitchen.”

For ingredients, Puppy enjoys the bounty of the Island, especially fresh local corn, lobster, and freshly caught striped bass. He likes to steam the corn, then blacken it on the grill. He cuts off the kernels for a fresh grilled corn and feta salad. He enjoys the bass stuffed with just-picked garden herbs and grilled whole. And for prep, it’s a time-saver for him to do the preliminary work in his kitchen at Soigne and finish the entrée on the grill at home.

A simple recipe that he recommends is “Wine Bottle or Beer Can Chicken.” Here’s how he makes it:

Rub your chicken with your favorite spice. His favorite for this is hot smoked paprika, garlic powder, sea salt, and cayenne pepper. Empty half the beer or wine into a shallow pan and put two or three garlic cloves in the bottle or can. Set the bottle or can through the cavity of the chicken, standing it upright in the shallow pan. Make sure the chicken doesn’t tip over, place it in the grill, close the lid, and cook to perfection. The liquid remaining in the bottle or can with the garlic helps to flavor the cavity of the chicken.

Of course, it’s best made with locally raised chickens.

Everything's blooming at Vineyard greenhouses.

While we wondered if winter would ever end, elves at local greenhouses have been busy with seeds and seedlings; cleaning and refurbishing shops, grounds and display areas and stocking soil, fertilizer, potted plants and shrubs ready to burst into bloom.

Ashley Lister at Donaroma's.

Ashley Lister at Donaroma’s. — Ralph Stewart

Most nurseries opened quietly last month for those intrepid gardeners who wanted to get a head start on the season. These days, they are buzzing with preparations for Palm Sunday on April 13, which for many Islanders is the unofficial “grand opening,” when the spirits of plant lovers are lifted by displays of early spring flowers, the smell of warm soil in greenhouses filled with young growing plants, that long-awaited breath of spring. It is indeed a time to awaken from the winter doldrums and begin dreaming of flowers, herbs, vegetables, and the warm days ahead.

All nurseries carry conventional and organic soils and fertilizers, pest control products, gardening tools, containers, and paraphernalia. They offer a variety of special discounts and bargains to tempt the green-thumbed customer.

Vineyard Gardens

Palm Sunday Open House: 11am to 2 pm; free plants, refreshments and Easter Sunday Egg Hunt (1 pm).

What else: Saturday morning (11 am) free lectures range from starting plants from seed to vegetable gardening, lawn care and maintenance and more. Saturday hands-on workshops teach how to prepare seeds and seedlings, and bring them home to plant ($20 fee).

What’s new:  Greenhouse attached to front shop; Amish-made Adirondack chairs.

What’s special: Each week, a special plant is offered at a 20-percent discount.

“Please stop by for a breath of spring,” says Chris Wiley, co-owner with husband Chuck. “The greenhouses are full and gorgeous.”

484 State Road, West Tisbury. VineyardGardens.net, 508-693-8511

Middletown Nursery

Palm Sunday: Family Fun Day visitors can plant a mini-strawberry or flower garden.

What else: Free seminars with organic gardener Roxanne Kapitan, “The Backyard Vegetable Garden from Seed to Harvest,” begin April 19, 1-2 pm. Topics include composting, building organic soil, and maximizing garden yield.

What’s new: remodeled the shop and creation of parklike display grounds with educational displays and new plants.

What’s special: the Island’s exclusive Husqvarna Dealer offers power tools and equipment. “Yard Sale” discounts are offered through April 19.

“We hope for a beautiful Easter Sunday and invite families to join us from 10 am to 1 pm for an Easter filled with the colors of spring,” said manager Steven Elliott.

680 State Road, West Tisbury. (508)696-7600

Jardin Mahoney

Easter season: Easter Cookie Decorating party for the kids on Easter Sunday, 9 am-3 pm.

What else: Lush tropicals and indoor hydrangeas, tulips, daffodils and even aromatic herbs welcome visitors into the big greenhouse. Also, fruit trees including apple, pear, plums, and cherries and berry bushes.

What’s special: Sale on blueberry bushes while supplies last.

Wandering the grounds makes for a nice spring walk and the garden center stocks everything you need to get outdoors and start digging.

45 Edgartown Vineyard Haven Road, Oak Bluffs. jardinmahoney.com, (508) 693-3511.

Donaroma’s

Palm Sunday: 10 am-2 pm, Donaroma’s welcomes guests with cut daffodils for all; Easter Sunday from 10 am-2 pm.

What’s new: Easter Lilies and hyacinths; early blooming shrubs like lilac, forsythia, and dogwood.

What’s special: A spring sale runs April 11 to 13; weekly specials for landscapers only.

The spacious florist shop and greenhouse is bursting with cheerful Easter decorations, plant baskets, bunnies, butterflies, and chicks.

Upper Main St., Edgartown. Donaromas.com; (508)627-3036.

Heather Gardens

Palm Sunday (8:30 am- 3 pm) open house featuring free plants, warm refreshments, and sweet goodies.

What else: According to owner Mike Saunier, the nursery features the Island’s largest selection of locally grown, hand-seeded annuals in six-packs.

What’s new: Expanded variety of shrubs.

What’s special: one greenhouse filled with lush tropical houseplants and the tiny potting shed offering antique garden collectibles.

“We have the same friendly staff as in previous years who are always eager to help,” said Mr. Saunier, echoing the welcome of all Island nurseries.

377 State Road, West Tisbury. heather-gardens.com, (508)693-1467.

This story was updated on April 14, 2014, to correct a mistake in the Middletown Nursery section. Steven Elliott was mistakenly identified as the owner of the West Tisbury nursery. John and Heather Hoff have owned the business for five years. Mr. Elliott is the manager.

Ruth Stiller’s recipe for Matzoh Balls is a treat for the holiday week.
Ruth Stiller's matzo ball soup is a family favorite.

Ruth Stiller’s matzo ball soup is a family favorite. —

Ruth Cronig Stiller has rich memories of Passover feasts, surrounded by her big family in the same Vineyard Haven home where she now lives. But even as a young adult, she never got to try her hand in the kitchen

“My mother never let us help in the kitchen,” said Ms. Stiller. “She cooked for the whole family. She was happy to do it.”

She and her siblings worked at the family business, Cronig’s Market, Ms. Stiller explained. The kitchen was her mother’s domain.

Then, as today, Matzoh Ball Soup was Ruth Stiller’s favorite part of the festive meal.

“I would just as soon live on that and nothing else,” she said.

In time, Ms. Stiller married, had children, and began hosting her own Passover Seders with a dozen or more at the table. She became known among relatives and friends for her exceptional soup, especially the matzoh balls themselves.

Ms. Stiller, who will turn 92 in June, is modest about her culinary skills – “I’m not an adventurous cook,” she said. A working woman for decades until age 86, she spent limited time in the kitchen. But she loved to cook for Passover, and has a collection of Jewish cookbooks she consulted.

She said Matzoh Ball Soup recipes vary widely. Some cooks make a hearty mixture, adding chicken pieces and a variety of vegetables. But not Ruth Stiller.

“The kids were young. They didn’t want a bunch of stuff in their soup. Kids like simple food,” she recalled. “I like food to be simple and plain.”

“People loved the soup, but it was so easy,” she said with a chuckle.

Ms. Stiller in her cooking prime would make delicious fresh chicken broth. But her magic touch was with the matzoh balls.

Never quite certain what made her balls so fluffy, buoyant, and delectable, Ms. Stiller suspects it was brief and careful beating. “They need some loving attention, I think.”

Ms. Stiller recalled one Passover when her aunt brought a soup. As the younger, far less experienced cook, Ms. Stiller was a bit embarrassed that her own soup was so good, her matzoh balls so light and fluffy, compared to her aunt’s which were “tough and hard.”

Despite the accolades she received, Ms. Stiller insisted that matzoh ball consistency is a matter of individual taste, and not everyone likes the fluffy variety, including her husband. “The kids and I liked them light, but he liked them tough!”

Now the sprawling family that once crowded the dining room, eating on wall-to-wall makeshift tables, is much smaller, with children grown, relatives moved off-Island, older generations passed away. Ms. Stiller and her daughter Gayle join other Island families for the Community Passover Seder at the M.V. Hebrew Center. Although her favorite, most memorable Seders have always been the large family gatherings of the past, Ms. Stiller thoroughly enjoys the communal event.

“It’s fun to be with a big crowd,” she said.

Gayle Stiller has taken an occasional turn at making the traditional soup. She said that despite the simplicity of the recipe, “You have to be careful you don’t overbeat the balls or they get too heavy and tough. When you plop them in the broth they don’t rise to the surface. You end up with indigestible matzoh balls.”

Offering high praise for the delicacy of her mother’s matzoh balls and mouth-watering broth, she said the question of who makes the best soup for Passover often leads to friendly competition in many families.

“It’s a matter of pride to have the better Matzoh Ball Soup,” she said.

Highlighting every Passover menu, the soup features succulent balls of matzoh meal, eggs, and various seasoning. The meal is made by grinding matzoh, the unleavened bread eaten during Passover week when consuming leavened products is forbidden by Jewish law.

Gayle recalled with amusement a Passover Seder held years ago at Anthony’s Restaurant (later Lola’s and Hooked) beside Farm Neck Golf Course. The kitchen staff was clearly unfamiliar with traditional Jewish cooking, especially matzoh balls.

“Here we were at a golf course, and they were like golf balls, so tough you couldn’t get your spoon through them,” she laughed.

For the younger Ms. Stiller, her favorite isn’t the traditional soup but the matzoh itself.

“The first bite of matzoh when we’re doing the Seder always tastes so good,” she said. “It’s so meaningful and symbolic. It’s the unleavened bread. Another year’s gone by and here we are, celebrating again.”

Ruth Stiller’s recipe for Matzoh Balls

2 eggs

matzo meal

1 tsp.salt

2 eggs, beat whites stiff first, add 1 teaspoon salt. Add yellows (yokes) and beat. Add 5 level Tbs. matzoh meal. Let stand for 20 minutes. Then add matzoh meal until it is formable into balls. Wet hands, make balls and put in simmering soup. Makes about 8 balls.

From What’s Cookin? published by the Jewish Welfare Federation of New Bedford,  1968.

Kids hunt for eggs, and parents hunt for photographs of kids hunting for eggs, at the Vineyard Gardens event.

The Easter bunny comes to Martha’s Vineyard this weekend, and he will leave plenty of treats for young egg hunters to uncover on Saturday and Sunday. For more information on Easter and Holy Week services, please see the Religious Services section of Events and Essentials.

Saturday, April 19

9 am, 10 Bold Meadow Road, Edgartown. Organized by St. Andrew’s Church. 500 eggs. All are welcome. 508-627-5330. standrewsmv.org.

10 am, Long Point Wildlife Refuge, West Tisbury. Egg decorating available in the Long Point visitor center from 10 am to 2 pm. Egg hunt at 11 am sharp. Members $5, nonmembers $7. 508-693-7662.

10 am, West Tisbury Library, West Tisbury. Find eggs filled with jellybeans in the new library. Free. 508-693-3366.

10:30 am, Aquinnah Public Library, Aquinnah. Spring Fling and egg hunt. 508-645-2314.

11 am, Oak Bluffs Library. Annual spring egg hunt for kids sponsored by the Friends of the Oak Bluffs Library. 508-693-9433. oakbluffslibrary.org.

Lucas-Guadagno-Easter-Harbor-View.JPGSunday, April 20:

9 am, Chilmark Community Church. Easter service with music by harpist Sandra Attwood. Easter egg hunt for kids follows. 508-645-3100. chilmarkchurch.org.

9:45 am, First Baptist Church Parish House, Vineyard Haven. Breakfast, 11 am Easter Sunday “Alleluia” service, followed by an Easter egg hunt. 508-693-1539.

10 am, Harbor View Hotel, Edgartown. Easter egg hunt on Lighthouse Beach and Harbor View’s grounds, with an appearance by the Easter Bunny. From 10:30 am to 4 pm, the hotel’s restaurant, Water Street, will serve brunch, priced at $55 per person and $25 for children 12 and under. 508-627-7000. harbor-view.com.

10 am, Agricultural Hall, West Tisbury. Service, all faith communities are welcome. Sunday school during the service followed by Easter egg hunt.

11 am, First Baptist Church, Vineyard Haven. Easter Sunday “Alleluia” service, followed by an Easter egg hunt. 508-693-1539. firstbaptistvineyardhaven.org.

11:30am, Mayhew Parsonage, Edgartown. Children’s egg hunt sponsored by the Federated Church of Edgartown. 508-627-4421.

1 pm, Vineyard Gardens, West Tisbury. Hunt begins at 1 pm sharp, please be timely. 508-693-8511. vineyardgardens.net.

1 pm, Portuguese-American Club, Oak Bluffs. Annual children’s egg hunt starts promptly at 1 pm. 508-693-9875.

Easter’s just another excuse to make art.

Ingrid Goff-Maidoff has always loved doodling. When other kids were "up to all kinds of mischief" in college, she painted Easter eggs. "It was the best way I knew," she told The Times, "to have a very cosmic time." She made these several years ago with permanent pen. Ms. Goff-Maidoff shows her work at Night Heron Gallery in Vineyard Haven, which opened April 4.

It’s no surprise that given a blank slate, an artist will fill it, or find a way to make something remarkable.

Traeger di Pietro shared this hand-made Easter egg. Mr. di Pietro will show his work in two galleries this summer. Openings are: North Water in Edgartown, Thursday, July 10, 5-7 pm; the Field Gallery, Sunday, August 10, 5-7 pm.

Traeger di Pietro shared this hand-made Easter egg. Mr. di Pietro will show his work in two galleries this summer. Openings are: North Water in Edgartown, Thursday, July 10, 5-7 pm; the Field Gallery, Sunday, August 10, 5-7 pm. — Courtesy Traeger di Pietro

Hard boiled eggs turn out to be no different. We asked some artists we know to share past Easter egg creations. We got emails of etchings and photos of egg-shaped earrings; when we got Traeger di Pietro’s very interesting hand-drawn egg, we envisioned him opening our email query, walking to the refrigerator, and — Sharpie in hand — drawing his vision.

Claudia Lee, owner of the eponymous jewelry stores, shared photos of the Easter eggs created by her late husband, the beloved Island artist Richard Lee. Mr. Lee made the eggs pictured here just months before his death, for the 2012 Easter Egg hunt that Elise LeBovit holds each year at the Duck Inn in Aquinnah. “They’re hard boiled eggs,” Ms. Lee told the Times recently. “All dyed with gold leaf and copper and silver leaf.” Each year, Mr. Lee decorated 20-30 eggs, slowly, over a week’s time. The morning of the event, Mr. Lee and their son Hudson hid the eggs in the Ms. Lebovit’s field.

The late Island artist Richard Lee painstakingly decorated dozens of Easter eggs for an annual egg hunt at the Duck Inn.

The late Island artist Richard Lee painstakingly decorated dozens of Easter eggs for an annual egg hunt at the Duck Inn. — Courtesy Claudia Lee

“He just loved doing it. They were gorgeous! I hated to part with them,” Claudia Lee said. “Each year, I managed to get a few the kids missed. Over time, I’d keep out six or eight each Easter.”

In 2013, Claudia Lee decided to keep up the tradition, and decorate the eggs herself. “It took me forever,” she said. “I had to ask my son to help. I’m not as good with the gold leaf.” The children, she said,  didn’t seem to notice the difference between the Mr. and Mrs. Lee’s eggs.

“I’ll be doing it again this year,” Ms. Lee told us. Her son is away, she said, so she’ll invite friends over to help.

"Nest" etching by Beldan K. Radfield, whose work can be seen at the Artisans Festival and Night Heron Gallery, which opened for the season on April 4.

“Nest” etching by Beldan K. Radcliffe, whose work can be seen at the Artisans Festival and Night Heron Gallery, which opened for the season on April 4. — Courtesy Beldan K. Radcliffe

Annie Foley has been catering on the Island for 24 years.

From casual weddings to over-the-top themed galas, in over two decades in the business, caterer Annie Foley has gathered a lifetime of memories.

“They’re all memorable,” she says when asked to recall some of her favorites. “The Vineyard is special. It’s unique. It’s lovely to be part of it all.” Still, some parties have left an impression with Ms. Foley owing to unique themes or special features.

Sometimes, you don’t need much of an excuse for a party.

foley-table-setting.jpgInspired by the alignment of digits on August 8, 2008 one client decided to celebrate with a extravagant Asian themed party. “We did an 8/8/08 party,” recalls Ms. Foley, “Ming Tsai [celebrity chef and cooking show host] was the featured chef. It was just lavish. Everything was very stylized. We had red silk tablecloths, black oversized square plates. The servers wore black cocktail dresses with a hint of red. There were orchids or floating lotus flowers on every table.” The aquatic flowers came from a pond on the West Tisbury property of Ms. Foley’s friend who waded in and picked an armful for the party.

One wedding celebration — a three-day affair  on the Vineyard — was such a success that the couple hired Ms. Foley and crew to  cater a second marathon party in Boston. “They did a three-day wedding in Boston for their Boston friends,” says Ms. Foley, “We brought the whole crew. It was at a private home with massive tents. There were ice sculptures including a ten-foot-high lighthouse with a light going around it.”

Another party featured a Moroccan theme with a Moorish tent, Moroccan food and music, and a belly dancer. The staff was dressed appropriately with imported outfits provided by the hosts.

These are just a few examples of lavish parties that Ms. Foley has brought her expertise to. She has been operating a catering business on the Vineyard for 24 years — ever since she moved to the Island from London in 1990.

And she loves what she does. “It’s creative,” she says, “It’s challenging. We meet a lot of different people. We’re at fabulous properties. I have a great crew and we have a fun time doing it. It keeps it all interesting. There are always different challenges.”

One such challenge was getting a crew across Oyster Pond for a beach party. Not quite knowing what they were getting themselves into, the staff arrived in full uniform, only to find that they would have to row across the pond with all of the food and equipment. Arriving at the location — sweating in their long sleeve shirts and khaki pants — they discovered another party of sorts further down the beach. “Just to the right was Chelsea Clinton and her boyfriend surrounded by Secret Service. It was a surreal scene,” says Ms. Foley, “I just love the visual.”

Ms. Foley has catered a number of parties where the Clintons were in attendance and the former president completely charmed her. “He was always friendly. He was always full of pizzazz and vitality. He would come in the kitchen and eat the chicken sausage right out off the pan when it came out of the oven — which we loved.”

While being involved in high-end events at luxury venues and homes is exciting, Ms. Foley also appreciates the laid-back atmosphere of the typical Vineyard wedding. “Most people want casual,” she says, “They don’t come to the Vineyard for overly formal. You go to the Hamptons for that. People come to the Vineyard to relax.”

Ms. Foley especially treasures parties where a little bit of the hosts’ personality has shined through. “I tell people that any personal touch — a recipe, a family tradition — makes a difference,” she says. “You don’t want to be cookie-cutter. Whatever you can do to bring your personality into a party will make it special.”

She recalls one bride who surprised her Philadelphia native husband by providing a late-night Philly cheesesteak station. “It was a lot more popular than anyone expected,” says Ms. Foley, “The guys, especially, were all lined up.”

Another couple chose a unique decorative touch. “I did one gay wedding last year where they had model boats on each table as the centerpieces,” says Ms. Foley, “At the end of the meal kids ran off and played with them. I just loved it.”

From a 400-guest wedding with a 12-piece band and a caviar and martini bar, to an annual wine dinner with multiple courses and a California vintner as special guest, to simple picnics and barn weddings, Ms. Foley enjoys them all. “I love cooking,” she says, “I love food. It’s still my interest and passion. I have about 400 cookbooks. I’m always looking for new ideas.”

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Looking for love? The Martha's Vineyard Museum has an excellent collection of antique valentines.

Ever wonder why lovers started sending valentines? How they looked and how they reflected the times? Bonnie Stacy, the chief Dopeycurator of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum will discuss the Museum’s collection of antique valentines at “Is It Not Love?” on Tuesday, February 11, at 5:30 pm at the Museum Library. The 19th century saw the transformation of valentines from homemade tokens of affection to the popular mass-produced cards familiar to us today. Ms. Stacy will trace the history of valentines, both humble and elaborate, and share some of the stories of the Island sweethearts who sent and received valentines. She shared some of her favorites, below, with the MVTimes.

snow-whiteThese Disney-themed Valentines were found in the old Bradley church in Oak Bluffs.

The pinholes in the corners — and lack of writing on the back of the Valentines — led the historians at the MV Museum to surmise that Sunday school teachers tacked the Disney valentines to a bulletin board at the Bradley Church.

Lucy Andrews Dowd, the recipient of this Gibson-girl themed valentine, was born at the turn of thedowd-valentine-front-back last century in Tisbury. Lucy would eventually marry three times and live to be 91. Because Gibson Girls (such as the one pictured here) were popular from the 1890′s to the early 1900′s, we’re guessing that the “Reginald” who sent Lucy this card was a grade-school suitor. Early animation: on the back of several of the Dowd collection valentines are tabs to make the front move.

Dowd-valentine_die-cut2Though valentine messages had been sent for hundreds of years, the industrial revolution introduced mass-produced valentines. Lucy Andrews Dowd sent this die-cut card to some “one” she loved while she was still Lucy Andrews.

Ready-made valentines with poems helped less eloquent suitors express themselves.

Julia Avila Dunham died in 1937, and is buried in the West Tisbury cemetery, along with her parents. Dunham-mmp-valentineA census shows that she never married, but for several years, she received valentines from someone — no one is sure if it was a man or woman — who signed the cards “MMP.”

Julia Dunham would have been about 51 years old when she started receiving these romantic valentines from MMP. On the backs of the cards, MMP would write sentiments such as: “I stopped in the pouring rain last night and got your postcard, don’t you think I wanted to hear from you? Pretty cold…this a.m. wish you were here. Sweetheart I want to see you. Take good care of yourself, dress warmly so as not to get sick.”

Dunham-dream-valentine-backMMP sent Julia Dunham cards until 1915. Julia moved to Martha’s Vineyard some time between 1910 and 1915, but historians at the museum have not been able to determine what happened to the

Admission is $8 for members and $12 for non-members. Visitwww.mvmuseum.org for more information.