No béchamel senza whisk

At lunch with a certain investigative reporter in NOLA back in November, I mentioned my theory that the worst thing that could have happened to men was Hillary’s losing the electoral college. Cocking his head (see what I did there?), he responded: “Tell me more.”

And it’s not my theory but my conviction: If she had won, everything  would be business as usual. They could go on attacking her for Benghazi! and her “crooked” foundation and whatever new “scandal” they could dredge up while continuing to harass if not assault women with impunity and totally running the world. Instead, the fact that a far, far more competent woman was passed over, yet again, for not just a mediocre man but a sexual predator unleashed the furies.

 One night in the magic city made me even more confident that things have changed. I tried to do my usual dinner-alone strategy of walking into a top resto early and asking to have a drink and snack at the bar. This woman-owned one turned out not to have a bar, just a lounge where no food was served, so I asked the hostile hostess if she could recommend somewhere else nearby. Her suggestion came with a caveat: “The food is good, but not as good as ours.”

And it turned out to be a restaurant in a hotel where the crowd was loud and the bartenders in the weeds. It’s one thing to let a woman alone sit without even water for 10 minutes, but another entirely not even to make eye contact. When shaker/mover finally did come by, he gave me a happy hour menu and listed drink options that omitted my choice: White wine. “We’re sold out.” I looked at the food options, saw the likes of fried, fried and heavy and picked up my bag. On my way out, I approached the hostess: “This is an awkward question, but could you recommend somewhere nearby just to have a drink and a snack at the bar?” She offered the regular menu, but I said the bartender seemed overwhelmed. So she suggested a new place where she had not “dined” and I thanked her profusely. “No worries,” she responded. “We all have to stick together.”

I made a wrong turn and so had to stop in another bar, one where three women were drinking and one guy was playing the slots, to ask for directions. The woman bartender was effusive in helping me out, and all three barstoolers chimed in to be sure I would get there okay.

And it turned out to be a sleek, fancy joint with a very nice bar and an open stool, although one where the previous occupant’s mess had not been cleaned up. I waited and waited while two guy bartenders ignored me, one fussing with the teevee remote, and almost walked out when one finally cleared the bar and didn’t wipe it, just set down a fresh napkin. The menu was not promising, but I couldn’t leave, even to go back to Nice Hostess Resto. Finally a woman bartender approached and took my order with a “you got it, baby” and instantly brought a huge glass of sauvignon blanc (Whitehaven, one of my very favorites, for all of $10 when it retails for at least $20 a bottle in NYC).

While I ate, I saw her hustling nonstop, and then the remote bartender got her near the computer and grossly groped her shoulders while clearly dressing her down. After I had paid and tipped, she stepped away with a big smile, headed to the end of the bar and surreptitiously wiped her eyes, then bolted for the bathroom. I waited till she finally came back, then slipped her a note, my card and a couple more dollars. “I tipped you 20 percent, but the check said Anthony, so here’s a little more.” She gave me a big, perky smile and said: “No, I’m not Anthony. I’m Marlee.”

And then I walked back to Nice Hostess Resto to thank her for the suggestion. I told her what the bartender had had to do to put up with assholes and walked out hearing her first words: “We all have to stick together.”

No gumbo for all you guys, not least Besh, cuz I also heard happily hammered women in the Quarter yelling about other chefs whose empires would be coming down. And I experienced all this after lunch with a woman who had worked in the city’s top law firms and seen all men’s power plays and who had the dirt on another local chef who treats women as objects. And after a conversation with strangers at the bar at Cochon, one a woman who had been “the only skirt” at a presentation at a business conference that day and another a woman who prosecutes sex crimes against both kids and olds. (Yep.) Their contained anger was quite something to experience. 

Under President Hillary, we would all be living in the future now. None of this would be happening yet.