John Besh. Damn. I did not see that coming. Then again, I’m not in the restaurant industry. My experience working front-of-house for a very casual family-oriented chain restaurant one summer in high school was completely free of untoward behavior by the male employees and customers, and simply left me with a few meager paychecks and some hilarious stories. Apparently I got lucky.
The Besh scandal has of course nipped the heels of the bombshell Harvey Weinstein allegations, and the whole thing has me, like countless other women, reflecting on my own experiences dealing with sexual harassment and sexual assault, both the ones I’ve experienced myself and ones I’ve directly witnessed my girlfriends experience. I know many, many women are speaking up in the wake of these scandals, detailing their own experiences, #metoo, and all that. I hold in high esteem the women who have kept quiet – everyone’s personal situation is different and this IS a complex issue – but I also have enormous respect for all the women who have shared. I think, ultimately, the tide will not change but for speaking up. Any one person may not be heard much, but there is absolutely strength in numbers. The more women speak up, the more people cannot ignore how prevalent this problem is. The more we are letting the next generation of young girls AND boys know that this kind of behavior is completely unacceptable. Here is my tiny contribution, a chronological accounting of every time I personally have experienced sexual harassment or assault, or directly witnessed it happening to a friend. Or at least the ones I remember. And this is in addition to all the public cat calls and gross men who have “accidentally” bumped into me, specifically my breasts or butt, on the subway.
-I was at a water park with my friend, a couple random guys about our age approached us; they seemed nice so we chatted with them. Until they started comparing the size of our racks, to our faces. Did I mention we were just barely in middle school?
-A guy friend of an old high school boyfriend, whom I’ll call “John”, once called me “John’s lackey” simply because I was waiting for him while he met with a teacher after school one day.
-There was my college professor who leered at his female students, gave unwanted hugs, made suggestive comments about our outfits, and dropped unsubtle innuendos (during class!) about having sex with his wife.
-One time I was out to eat with a girlfriend, and a guy kept harassing us about accepting a drink from him. We said we weren’t interested in no uncertain terms, but he didn’t let up. We paid our bill and left, then noticed he was starting to follow us to our car. I don’t know what could have happened had the bartender not noticed, come outside, and interfered on our behalf.
-One time a friend had a guy violently grab and twist her arm when she told him she didn’t want to hook up with him; I had to physically jump in and kick him off of her. Thank god for heels.
-Then there was that guy who kept asking me out even after I told him I was seeing someone else and uninterested and wouldn’t take no for an answer.
-When I first moved to NJ, my first landlord’s husband kept leering at me, and the minute his wife ran out to the car for something she’d forgotten, he started asking me if I had a boyfriend to “keep me warm at night.”
When you shine a light on something, it can’t hide anymore. These are the conversations we must have, this is the kind of reprehensible behavior we must call out. I have to practice what I preach, so this is my small contribution to this giant conversation.
For today’s recipe, I felt it imperative to share something from a well-respected, totally badass, woman chef and restaurateur, the incomparable Alex Guarnaschelli. This is the first recipe I made from her newest book, which is quickly catapulting itself to one of my favorite cookbooks in my entire collection. I am a self-described shortbread fiend, and this is easily a top 3 shortbread base. The perfect balance of salt and sugar on top is a signature of Chef Guarnaschelli, and I couldn’t stop swooning. Enjoy!
SOURCE: The Home Cook by Alex Guarnaschelli
10 tbs unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pan
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tbs plus 2 tsp granulated sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 large egg
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp fleur de sel, or other large, flaky sea salt
8 tsp granulated sugar, plus more to taste, for finishing
Preheat the oven to 325 F.
To make the dough, add the butter, confectioners’ sugar, 1 tbs plus 2 tsp granulated sugar, and kosher salt to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed, scraping down the sides occasionally, until the mixture is fully incorporated and nice and fluffy, 5 to 8 minutes. Turn the mixer down to medium-low, then add the egg. Beat until just combined. Turn off the mixer, add the flour, then turn it back on low. Beat until just combined.
Grease the bottom and sides of an 8-inch round cake pan (I used 1 tbs unsalted softened butter), then dump the dough into the greased cake pan. Use your hands to gently press the dough into an even layer all the way to the edges of the pan. Sprinkle evenly with the fleur de sel, then use the tines of a fork to press the dough in different ways for a pretty decoration.
Bake until the shortbread is light brown, 18 to 22 minutes (for what it’s worth, mine always takes exactly 20 minutes to be perfect). Remove the pan from the oven and allow the shortbread to cool slightly in the pan, 5 to 8 minutes.
To finish and serve the shortbread: use a serrated knife to gently cut the shortbread into 8 even wedges, like pieces of pie. Sprinkle 1 tsp granulated sugar over each wedge. Trace the cuts a second time with the serrated knife, then carefully remove the wedges (the first one is hardest). Add more granulated sugar to taste (or if a lot fell off in transfer). Serve warm or at room temperature.