Newlyweds Cook: Kamilah + Julius

Call me old fashioned, but I believe all that business about food being the way to a man's heart (though in truth, it's the way to a lot of ladies hearts too). I'm a bit of a sucker for anyone who embraces the innocent hope that their cooking can cast a spell on their beloved. So I have to hand it to my friend Kamilah Duggins for putting her charms to work to nab her hubs, Julius.

Kamilah and I were pals way back in Journalism school at the University of Missouri. We talked more about getting the story than getting the guy back then, but when she turned up ten years later (just a subway ride away in Brooklyn, no less), I was thrilled to learn that we share a crazy love for food and our guys. I'm thrilled to introduce you to our Newlyweds Cook editor, Kamilah and her husband Julius, our debut Newlyweds. Here is their story:

Kamilah + Julius
Brooklyn, NY

So many details escape me about that winter evening six years ago when I first had Julius over for dinner. Memory of the weather, what I wore or what music was on the old-school boom box in my kitchen—all the stuff lovers swear they'll never forget—has quietly faded into the background and made way for other, newer moments. But I do remember something of an electric feeling as I buzzed around that day in preparation. It was our first date at my apartment. We had seen each other six, maybe seven times, and I may have already called my friend Amanda to tell her I had met the man I would marry.

I breezed through the market and tidied up the shabby, not-so-chic Brooklyn apartment I shared with three guys who were probably away playing a gig that night. As I stirred the pot, I caught myself daydreaming about how he might react when the first bite of this meal passed his lips. Would he put the fork down and close his eyes to silently savor the magic? Or break into a smile that said what a lucky guy he was? It sounds ridiculous, I know. But what can I say? When it comes to cooking, and almost nothing else, I’m a little bit of a show-off (this also applies to game night; if Taboo or Catchphrase is involved, you want me on your team).

In an effort to impress, but not overwhelm, I chose West Indian style curry shrimp as my entree. It was simple, but the flavors were complex; humble, but still special; familiar, but in the cold of winter, transporting; and most importantly, the star ingredient was Julius’s favorite. Unless he just happened to hate curry, this, I knew, would be a slam dunk.

When he arrived, the air was redolent of cumin, coriander, ginger and cinnamon, a comforting backdrop for the headiness of our energy together. When it was time to eat, I made our plates, sat down, watched as he took a bite, and waited for it: The widening of his eyes, the exclamation to form in his mouth, something that would tell me he was utterly blown away. That this meal was like manna from heaven.

But that’s not what happened. Not so much as groan of satisfaction left his mouth. Instead, he returned to his pre-dinner conversation, and that was that. Evening slipped into night and he hadn’t even said if he liked it.

Ladies and gentleman, my bubble had been burst.

When I ask Julius what he remembers about that date, he says he sensed my mood was somewhat deflated after dinner that night, but he wasn't sure why. When I brought it up months later, his defense was that he cleaned his plate and asked for seconds. What more did I need? I don’t know. In my family when it comes to food, if you like it, you say so. And if it’s really good, you go on about it.

I guess that’s the fun and maddening thing about marriage: while we are joining hands and committing to build a future together, we are silently bringing all of our ‘ways’ with us. My family talks, but Julius comes from a clan of doers.

As it turns out, he loved that meal. Between that and the chocolate chip peanut butter cookies I donated to his super bowl party (I’ll have to give you that recipe sometime), he had all his friends convinced that I was a five-star chef. And ever since, he has been my favorite person to cook for. He likes the mistakes, he washes the dishes, and when we sit down to dinner together just about every night, he is so grateful, so appreciative. In fact, I can’t remember the last time he ate from our kitchen and didn’t tell me how good it was.

Now it’s your turn. We're dying to hear about the first meal you cooked for your love. Won't you tell us?

In the meantime, eat well.



Sarah said...

I love, love, love this story Kamilah! I have to confess my cooking for Andras is both generous, and selfish. I want to give and treat and love on him with food, but I expect some praise in return. It took me a lonooooog time (and I'm still working on it) to understand that a clean plate is his way of showing praise. I grew up with a lick-your-lips praising papa who showered my mom with "oh honey, honey, honeys!" when he loved something she made (though, on the flip side, the absence of such praise would surely indicate the meal was mundane....) and I expected the same. More often than I care to admit I sulk behind my fork waiting for applause before I finally say "Did you even like it at all?" And I'm always reminded with his shining eyes and grateful smile that I am the light of his world, and my food, just the nourishing icing on the cake.

wild cowgirl said...

oh gee...this totally captures why you two work so well

last meal i cooked for a man that i was in love with...NO IDEA. the last meal prepared for me by a man that i was into (at the time)- salmon, spiniach, and potatoes au gratin. ....it waas good.

geez, i gotta get in love more...

Kamilah said...

@Sarah: you totally hit the nail on the head: we cook from a generous, but selfish place.

@wildcowgirl: yes! get in love more. it's nice to be on the receiving end of all this yumminess.

Tomika said...

Beautifully written! I can smell the food cooking in your kitchen...congratulations!

momskitchenhandbook said...

Love it....would love to have recipes along with it...the curry, the cookies, both?

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New York City, United States
Sarah Copeland is a food and lifestyle expert, and the author of Feast: Generous Vegetarian Meals for Any Eater and Every Appetite, and The Newlywed Cookbook. She is the Food Director at Real Simple magazine, and has appeared in numerous national publications including Saveur, Health, Fitness, Shape, Martha Stewart Living and Food & Wine magazines. As a passionate gardener, Sarah's Edible Living philosophy aims to inspire good living through growing, cooking and enjoying delicious, irresistible whole foods. She thrives on homegrown veggies, stinky cheese and chocolate cake. Sarah lives in New York with her husband and their young daughter.