On February 24, 2018 I proposed to the love of my life. Here’s our story.
Proposal video: https://vimeo.com/257824642
How We Met
Rachel and I met early during college at a student organization fair on campus. Just a couple weeks after moving to Chicago from Wisconsin in August 2011, I attended the organization fair with a friend to learn more about student activities on campus. One of the student groups we came across was a raas (a traditional dance form from Gujarat, India) dance team. Rachel was on the team and happened to be one of the representatives at the fair. I was immediately struck by her bright and welcoming personality. Rachel somehow got me to sign up for the informational meeting for a dance group that I otherwise would never have considered. I never ended up pursuing the dance team, but this particular event marked a spark that began our friendship.
We had a number of mutual friends through our first couple years of college, but we got closer when we took a Hindi language course together in 2013. While we sat at opposite ends of the classroom, we had an instant connection through our passions for Indian culture and languages. During the summer of 2014, we took an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) course together. One of my other friends was also in the class, so the three of us would study together. Rachel and I got even closer during this course, and we began to realize we had quite a bit in common with regard to our interests, passions, families, backgrounds, and professional aspirations. After graduation from college, we continued to stay in touch and made an effort to meet up regularly to catch up. This worked out particularly well because we were both living in the Chicago suburbs after college. As time went on, our friendship grew stronger than ever.
On October 1, 2016 we had our first official date which included visiting a local pumpkin patch and cooking a fall inspired meal together. Since then, our relationship has blossomed so naturally and effortlessly. I slowly but surely began to realize that she was the one!
In November of 2017, Rachel and I started talking more seriously about our timeline and future together. We determined that we would like to get married in the summer of 2019, which meant I would propose sometime in 2018. In December 2017, I began brainstorming ideas for the proposal. I considered numerous options including travelling or visiting a local Chicago landmark or botanical garden. While these are still great options, I thought they would be impersonal. Instead, I wanted to curate an unforgettable experience that conveyed the sentiment of our relationship.
Food has been such an integral aspect of our relationship. There are certain foods that Rachel and I have associated with special dates whether it was meeting my parents, celebrating a birthday, or running our first 5k. From there, I came up with the idea of creating a multi-course meal in which each course would represent an experience or special meal that we’ve shared in the past. About a month before the proposal, I told Rachel that a magazine had reached out regarding a feature on multi-course meals. I had never done anything like that before, so I told her that I was going back and forth between whether or not to move forward with it. Eventually, I told Rachel that I decided to do it, and I was thrilled that she was so excited and supportive about it. The magazine would also be a good excuse for taking plenty of pictures on the day. I suggested Saturday, February 24, 2018 simply because it worked well with both of our schedules. Since that day was also my birthday (and as far as I could tell), I didn’t think she would suspect the proposal to happen that day. I had also mentioned that my parents would come into town for my birthday that evening, so we invited Rachel’s parents to join us.
Rewinding to December 2017, I began at that time by reflecting on some of our most significant dates and favorite meals. Then, I narrowed down on food themes and elements I wanted to include in the tasting menu. From there, I finalized the dishes and slowly accumulated dish-ware, flatware, etc. The week leading up to the big day, I started getting ingredients and preparing elements of each dish so I would have minimal cooking on the actual day of the meal.
I quickly set up the dining table in the living room of my apartment – a place where we shared so many memories together. That morning, I felt a rush of energy and excitement as if I were about to put on a performance. I had been conserving all of my creative energy for this day, and this was truly the most joyful and exhilarating cooking experience I’ve ever had.
I was nervous initially, as there were some courses that I was not able to practice beforehand. As the courses continued, things were falling into place and all of my planning proved to be worthwhile. I was thrilled with the outcome and even happier that Rachel was enjoying the experience.
When I brought out dessert, I explained to Rachel that I made a slideshow describing my inspiration for the meal that I would submit to the magazine. The slideshow included descriptions of each course along with pictures from the date or experience associated with it. After the slideshow concluded, I explained to Rachel that no magazine ever reached out to me for this multi-course meal and that it was all for her. I then got on one knee and asked her to marry me. Without hesitation she said yes, and that was one of the happiest moments of my life!
After the proposal, Rachel and I made our way over to her parents house since my parents had already arrived there. We surprised them by telling them about the proposal and receiving their blessings in person. We then celebrated by enjoying dinner and cake as well as sharing the news with family and friends.
The Nine Course Tasting Menu
Progression of the meal: earthy colors and tones becoming more bright and blossoming – analogous to the development of our relationship together.
Rachel: “We are big foodies. That’s why when Sheil originally told me that he was curating a multi-course vegan menu for a magazine, I was easily convinced and overly eager to spend an entire romantic afternoon sampling each plate with him”
peach puree | peach bitters | lemon | sparkling water | mint
Rachel: “We clinked our glasses with a bright and crisp toast to start off the nine course tasting menu. This drink was as simple as it was alluring, and it paired perfectly with the first three courses”
Course One: Bread
November 10, 2017
crostini | sunflower seed crema | toasted sunflower seeds | smoked salt | dill
Toasted baguette slices topped with creamy blended sunflower seeds.
Rachel: “The nutty sunflower seed crema over each indulgent earthy crostini was a delightful first course. Picking dill to be the culinary herb of choice was so brilliant because it incorporated such a fresh dewy aroma. The smoked salt was my favorite because it added an edgy and enticing finish to each perfectly sized french baguette.”
Course Two: Cold Salad
February 3, 2017
baby kale | savory sesame oat granola | d’anjou pear | miso ginger dressing
Rachel: “This energizing salad was a recreation of one of our absolute favorite salads that we have shared. The sweetness of the pear balanced out the bitter greens, and the lightly drizzled miso ginger dressing elevated the entire plate to a whole new level. The crunchy granola studded with sesame seeds added a refined touch.”
Course Three: Amuse Bouche
November 18, 2017 | December 31, 2017 – January 1, 2018
temari sushi | furikake | spicy mayo | soy sauce caviar | red pepper threads
A round version of sushi coated in a mix of toasted sesame seeds and nori seaweed.
Rachel: “The fun plating and presentation for this dish was one of my favorites! Sushi is one of our go-to meals and we’ve shared sushi on numerous occasions. This was a artful spin on the classic.”
Rachel: “This drink had the right balance between fruit and earth. It was just the right pair for the next three exciting plates coming up!”
Course Four: Warm Salad
October 1, 2016
roasted beets | cauliflower cashew puree | fennel fronds | crushed hazelnuts | balsamic reduction | beet powder
Rachel: “The intense colors and fall flavors in this dish reminded me so much of our very first date at the pumpkin patch! The beets were hearty and the fennel fronds added a subtle hint of licorice.”
Course Five: Pasta
August 5, 2017
fresh saffron ravioli | cashew cheese blend | basil | lemon | cashew parm | extra virgin olive oil
Rachel: “The saffron in this fresh homemade ravioli made it unimaginably satisfying. This reminded me of our summer trip to the farmers market in Wisconsin, where we spoiled ourselves with locally grown organic veggies for homemade fresh pasta night.”
Course Six: Palate Cleanser
December 31, 2016 – January 1, 2017
raspberry elderflower granita | edible flowers
Rachel: “So what’s the scoop? By this sixth course, I continued to appreciate all of the sentiment that each and every plate had and how it symbolized our relationship. I thought to myself that the magazine would really love all of these dishes. This floral frozen treat was the perfect palate cleanser for what was next to come.”
September 8, 2017
thai iced tea | vanilla | soy milk
Rachel: “Vegan Thai iced tea is almost impossible to find (unless obviously made at home). The strong brew, rich amber color, and sweet swirly appearance made it the best drink to complement the flavorful and robust dishes coming up.”
Course Seven: Cauliflower Steak
September 22-23, 2017
roasted cauliflower steak | manchurian sauce | grape tomatoes | broccoli microgreens | panko
Rachel: “This was a re-creation of one of the meals we had on our one year dating anniversary. The perfectly crisped golden cauliflower florets paired so effortlessly with the intense flavors of the manchurian sauce.”
Course Eight: Curry
February 24, 2017 | April 17, 2017
thai panang curry | brown rice | vegetables | crushed peanuts | basil | edible flowers
Rachel: “If I’m ever over eating, it is likely due to panang curry. The second to last meal brought out was truly one of our favorites as a couple. There is nothing more comforting than a warm bowl this creamy, rich, and nutty goodness.”
Course Nine: Dessert
Cashew and coconut based filling with a graham cracker crust.
Rachel: “Before bringing out the ninth and final course, he asked me to close my eyes. When I looked ahead, my eyes twinkled as I saw the most beautiful passionfruit cheesecake–my absolute favorite dessert.
He brought out his tablet stating that he made a video about the multi-course menu to submit to the magazine editor, and he wanted me to check it out before he submitted it. I realized quickly that this video was not going to be sent to any editor. He created a slideshow with a collection of all of our greatest memories and the food we have enjoyed together!
At the end of the video, he got down on one knee and told me that the magazine never contacted him in the first place, and that this entire multi-course menu and meal was all created especially for me!
On February 24, 2018, Sheil proposed to me and it was the best day of my entire life! Following the proposal, our parents awaited us with sweets, happy tears, and loads of love.”