Sealing Their Relationship With a Pasta Stamp

While getting ready to meet Harsh Shah at Hoi Polloi Brewing, a taproom and lounge in Berkeley, Calif., on a November evening in 2019, Laura Min McDonald recalled wondering, “Do I even know how to go on a date?”

Ms. McDonald, 35, had connected with Mr. Shah on the dating app Hinge shortly after her previous relationship had ended, and it had been 10 years since her last first date.

When she arrived, though, she found that she was immediately comfortable around Mr. Shah, and the two bonded over a shared love of food and the outdoors.

“Our communication seemed so natural, which I wasn’t necessarily expecting,” Ms. McDonald said. “I had way more fun than I think I anticipated I was going to have.”

Mr. Shah, 35, described the date similarly. “Things were just flowing,” he said, “and everything just felt really natural.” He was particularly charmed by how she would gesticulate with her hands when she got excited about something. “I remember at some point 20 minutes into it being like, how did we end up on this topic?”

A week later, Mr. Shah hosted Ms. McDonald for a home-cooked dinner of pizza and kale salad. About a week after that, the two, who were both living in Oakland, Calif., watched Mr. Shah’s close friend, James Liu, perform improv at Stage Werx Theatre in San Francisco. In January 2020, they took a trip to Sea Ranch, Calif., where they felt their relationship deepen.

“That’s when things felt like they started accelerating for us,” Mr. Shah said.

The following March, when the pandemic set in, they thought it would only last a few weeks. The two at first decided to hunker down in their separate homes, in part because they knew that Ms. McDonald’s work as a clinical nurse at a Stanford Health Care clinic in Emeryville, Calif., might expose her to the virus.

But within a week of making that decision, the couple realized that they didn’t want to spend anymore time apart from each other, and Ms. McDonald moved into Mr. Shah’s apartment.

“Not seeing each other only lasted five days,” said Mr. Shah, who works remotely as an adviser at Socotra, a company in Austin that makes software for insurance companies.

Despite the inherent stress of working as a nurse back then, coming home to Mr. Shah and “being able to see him every night and start building our life together,” Ms. McDonald said, “was just such a positive part of the early days of the pandemic for me. I felt really lucky.”

When they weren’t working, the couple spent the next few months cooking, making ice cream and having socially distanced visits with Ms. McDonald’s parents, who lived nearby. By May 2020, they both could see marriage on the horizon.

Knowing how important food had been in their relationship, Mr. Shah began crafting a plan for a proposal that incorporated it. He came up with the idea to make corzetti, a coin-like pasta that is typically stamped with a design. After taking a few woodworking classes, he began to secretly carve his own pasta stamp.

In February 2021, the couple took another trip to Sea Ranch, and on the second night of their trip, Mr. Shah told Ms. McDonald he was going to make dinner. She was excited when he handed her a plate of fresh corzetti with pesto — and then realized that each piece of pasta was stamped with the words “Laura, will you marry me?”

It was the work of “an amazing person,” Ms. McDonald said. “He’s really been this sort of steady and strong presence in my life as long as I’ve been with him.”

The couple, who now live in Albany, Calif., were married on March 12 at the Brazilian Room, a venue on the grounds of Tilden Regional Park in Berkeley, Calif., before about 110 vaccinated guests. Mr. Liu, a Universal Life Church minister, officiated.

Following the wedding, the groom said of the bride, “I am excited to continue cooking with her for the rest of my life.”