How This Colorful Plate of Sugar Cookies Brought Me and My Husband Closer Together

Because the best way to say, "I love you" is through food.

By: Jonathan Melendez
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Photo by: Photograph by Jonathan Melendez

Photograph by Jonathan Melendez

I owe my entire relationship with my husband to a single photograph of doughnuts. Baked chocolate peanut butter doughnuts to be exact (see picture above.) I know it might seem strange but it’s absolutely true. Julian and I met about 7 years ago, by chance, through Instagram. He had been a fan of my food blog — The Candid Appetite — and decided to start following me on the app, as well. He made sure to like all of my posts at once, as one does when trying to get noticed. It wasn’t until I shared that doughnut photo that he finally decided to strike up a conversation. After several comments back and forth, which ended with him asking me out on a date (you can still see the entire exchange), we met at a little bar in Los Feliz, California. The bar has since closed down but I still think about it often. On that 6-hour first date we talked about everything you could possibly think of, but the one thing that really excited the both of us — the one common ground that still continues to unite us — is our love of food.

Photo by: Photograph by Jonathan Melendez

Photograph by Jonathan Melendez

From the beginning we’ve always made food our first priority, no matter what we were doing. When we first started dating, we would put the names of restaurants we wanted to try in a jar, and then we’d pick one out blindly and give it a go. It was a fun game, especially on the occasions when I wasn’t really feeling the first cuisine chosen, so I’d make him pick again. Sometimes it took about three tries before I was completely satisfied. When we weren’t trying out new restaurants, I would visit his tiny apartment in Hollywood with groceries and cook dinner for the two of us. Each time he ended it with, “That was the best thing I ever ate.” He actually still says that even after three years of marriage. We’ve always based all of our vacations on the food first. No matter where we visit, we make sure to map out a plan of where to eat and what to try. Sure there’s something nice about visiting a historic monument or walking through a famous museum, but honestly, we would much rather find the best pizza in Rome, the finest tortilla in Barcelona or the must-have steak frites in Paris.

As much as my husband loves food, he wasn’t exactly a cook when we met. His dinner would consist of store-bought hummus, trail mix or fast food. I would open his fridge and there literally wouldn’t be anything inside save for beer and brie cheese. When we got married, he wanted to learn to cook to help balance the load of housework. I initially didn’t entertain this idea because this is a man who couldn’t even boil water. He cooked his eggs in the microwave and once almost burned down our first apartment.

Photo by: Photograph by Jonathan Melendez

Photograph by Jonathan Melendez

In 2018 though, I got the idea to teach him how to cook on a show we created for IGTV called Married and Hungry. (I want to preface this by saying that my husband is a comedy writer and actor and so he’s probably the funniest person I’ve ever met.) I thought it would be entertaining to teach him how to cook on camera by just telling him what to do without actually helping him. Over the course of three seasons, I taught him to cook and bake several different dishes. We started with simple recipes like Chicken Paillard (the first thing I ever cooked for him) to a bit more complicated recipes like homemade pasta from scratch. While we’re proud of how the show combined our love for cooking and each other, we’re perhaps most proud of the fact that Julian really did learn to cook. The man went from being afraid of poisoning someone to cooking dinner once a week. He now also bakes up a batch of my Circus Animal Sugar Cookies anytime he wants to impress our friends and family. It was a recipe from the first season of our show that he completely fell in love with.

There are many ways of expressing love, but I’ve learned throughout the years that there is no better way to say “I love you” than with food. After all, food is the universal language that everyone can understand. It unites people together no matter where you are. For me, through my blog, it introduced me to the love of my life and has provided me the opportunity to share what I love most with people from around the world. I’m grateful for it every day.

Jonathan Melendez is a cookbook author, food blogger and photographer. He shares his recipes and images on his blog, The Candid Appetite.

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