Laura Min McDonald recounted thinking to herself, “Do I even know how to go on a date?” as she prepared to meet Harsh Shah at Hoi Polloi Brewing, a taproom and bar in Berkeley, Calif., on a November evening in 2019.
Ms. McDonald, 35, had met Mr. Shah on the dating app Hinge shortly after her last relationship had ended, and it had been ten years since she had gone on a first date with him.
When she arrived, however, she discovered that she felt instantly at ease in the company of Mr. Shah, and the two became fast friends over their common love of food and the outdoors.
Mrs. McDonald said that “our conversation seemed to be really natural, which I wasn’t necessarily anticipating.” “I had a lot more fun than I thought I was going to have,” says the participant.
Mr. Shah, a 35-year-old businessman, recounted the occasion in a similar manner. “Everything simply seemed extremely natural,” he said. “Things were just flowing.” While watching her, he was especially taken by how enthusiastically she gestured with her hands when she was thrilled about anything. It was about 20 minutes into the meeting that I realised how we had ended up on this issue.
A week later, Mr. Shah invited Ms. McDonald over for a home-cooked supper of pizza and kale salad, which he prepared himself. About a week later, the two, who were both residents of Oakland, Calif., went to see Mr. Shah’s close buddy, James Liu, do improv at Stage Werx Theatre in San Francisco, which they found to be very entertaining. They went on a vacation to Sea Ranch, California, in January 2020, during which they felt their friendship deepening.
When the epidemic began in March of the next year, experts predicted it would last barely a few weeks. The two first opted to isolate themselves in their own houses, in part because they were concerned that Ms. McDonald’s employment as a clinical nurse at a Stanford Health Care clinic in Emeryville, Calif., may have exposed her to the virus. However, they eventually agreed to come together.
Ms. McDonald moved into Mr. Shah’s apartment within a week after making that choice, as the pair decided they didn’t want to spend any more time away from each other than they already had to.
‘It was just for five days that we weren’t seeing each other,’ said Mr. Shah, who works remotely as an advisor for Socotra, a firm based in Austin that develops software for insurance companies.
Although working as a nurse was stressful at the time, Ms. McDonald recalls that returning home to Mr. Shah and “being able to see him every night and start constructing our life together” was “just such a wonderful element of the early days of the epidemic for me.” “I considered myself quite fortunate.”
In their spare time, the pair enjoyed cooking, making ice cream, and visiting Ms. McDonald’s parents, who lived nearby, in a socially detached manner during the following six months. By May 2020, they might both be looking forward to getting married.
Knowing how significant food had been in their relationship, Mr. Shah started developing a strategy for a proposal that would integrate the element of cooking. He came up with the concept of making corzetti, which is a coin-shaped pasta that is often embossed with a pattern. In the aftermath of a few carpentry lessons, he started to covertly carve his own pasta stamp in his garage.
They returned to Sea Ranch in February 2021, and on the second night of their stay, Mr Shah informed Ms McDonald that he would prepare supper for the pair that evening. The first time he served her a dish of fresh corzetti with pesto, she was overjoyed — until she saw that each piece of pasta was imprinted with the words “Laura, would you marry me?” She was stunned.
Ms. McDonald described the piece as the product of “an outstanding individual.” “For as long as I’ve been with him, he’s been this type of consistent and powerful presence in my life.”
This past March, the couple, who now resides in Albany, Calif., exchanged vows in front of around 110 vaccinated guests in the Brazilian Room, which is located on the grounds of Tilden Regional Park in Berkeley, Calif. Mr. Liu, a preacher of the Universal Life Church, officiated.