Done! Jessica Harris’s Memories

Jessica Harris, right, in Edgartown, 1958. Courtesy Jessica Harris.
You have been coming to the Vineyard most of your life. Do you have a favorite food memory from your childhood summers on the Vineyard?

My first summer on the Vineyard was more than six decades ago. My parents rented a room with a woman who lived in Oak Bluffs, and we spent most of our time trying to get the key for the house that would become my family home one year later. My food memories begin in 1957, our first year of home ownership. The food options were simpler in those days, but no less tasty than they are today. There were baked goods: hermits, ginger cookies, doughnuts, and more at the bakery owned by our neighbors, the Walmsleys. Then, there was Italian food: I remember a rich, thick brick of red-sauced lasagna at Giordano’s, and the summer I ate so much grilled swordfish that I developed a 30-year aversion to it. When we really wanted to do it up, we’d head to Munroe’s Boston House in the middle of Circuit Avenue. They had the first salad bar I’d ever seen, and offered seriously fine dining. Once a summer, we’d head out to have a meal at the Dunes in Katama. My father would always indulge in a martini, and we’d drive carefully through the desolate, unlit roads until we reached home. 

Jessica Harris is a writer whose stories have appeared in Vogue, Food & Wine, Essence, and the New York Times, among other publications. Considered one of the pre-eminent scholars of the food of the African diaspora, she has been inducted into the James Beard Who’s Who in Food and Beverage in America. Her cookbooks include “The Africa Cookbook: Tastes of a Continent” and “My Soul Looks Back: A Memoir.” She lives in Oak Bluffs when she is not in New Orleans or New York.