I constantly long for the coveted vacation trope: spending the day at the beach, returning to a clean hotel room to relax, and getting ready for the proceeding dinner with a sun kissed face. For the past two years, the outbreak of COVID shut down my hopes of vacation, alongside any gastronomic experimentation that would come with such a trip. However, I was able to travel to St. Thomas this past spring break and take advantage of the vibrant food culture the island bolsters. Throughout the course of my week on St. Thomas, I sampled a plethora of restaurants and street vendors that consistently left me in awe. Ranging from hidden beachside establishments accessible only by boat, to our final night’s “fancy dinner,” St. Thomas was a gift to my palette. Not only were the dishes delicious, but the memories associated were even greater.
On our final night, I made the ferry trek to St. John– crossing island-hopping off my bucket list. We had spent a long day at the beach, stomachs rumbling in preparation for the supposedly delectable dinner to come. Phone service on the trip was spotty, but I managed to secure enough to send my parents a short text message: “Going to dinner on St. John at the Terrace, will DEFINITELY send a picture of my plate.” Food is an integral part of my family dynamic and my family group chat is filled with plate pictures. Whether from Mac or a dinner in the North End, my family is readily knowledgeable on my menu choices each day, though being far apart. Upon sending this text, my parents responded much more enthusiastically than I expected. They relayed to me that this was the restaurant in which they dined the night they were engaged, constituting the Terrace as the birthplace of my family itself. Of all the restaurants on the island, we had incidentally chosen one of such familial significance. A wide smile spread across my cheeks, elated to share this experience with my parents.
Approaching the Terrace, I knew precisely which restaurant it was, before distinguishing its name. The dimly lit space, lacking a distinct change from the inside to outside, with countless plants elegantly lining its frame, was one that immediately drew in passersby. The Terrace has undoubtedly undergone renovations since my parents’ engagement, due to the relentless hurricanes that strike the island, but the atmosphere of the restaurant was one of comfort and grace that I am confident has withstood the physical modifications. Moving through the restaurant, I imagined the space as one that my parents had experienced in the past. With this being my first vacation without them, I found myself frequently doing this along each stop, but especially here at the Terrace. Though they were over one thousand miles away, I was able to feel their presence. The food at the Terrace was spectacular, reflecting the vibrance of the Virgin Islands and the local fare which constitutes much of their economy. The menu included an array of its cultural influences, allowing guests to immerse themselves in St. John’s rich diversity and history. Curious as to what my parents had ordered, I asked them, to which they replied that they had no idea: they were too overcome by emotion and care to consider the food before them.
Though food constitutes so many of my memories, I feel that it is truly the people we spend these moments with that comprise the utmost significance. Food provides the outline for connections, opening opportunities for us to find them among one another. To visit the Terrace and experience its sentimentality is an experience I am so grateful for and one that has assuredly brought me closer to my parents’ past.
Cover Photo Courtesy of Jane Paulson