Back when I was job hunting, someone told me to find a mentor. Someone to guide me in the right direction, push me to new limits, and help me discover the true me. Where was I supposed to get one of those? Amazon? There were no Groupon deals for mentors and for all the unsolicited promotional emails I was getting, none were selling me these professional spirit guides I’d heard so much about.
Luckily, I had a few viable candidates to consider for the job. At some point, someone told me that I couldn’t just pick a mentor – The whole point is that they see something in you, and choose by their own volition to coach you to success. Well, duh! Is my “only child” showing?
I carried on, scheduling phone calls and barging into the offices of various execs at the ad agency where I was freelancing. I got some sage advice, sure, but nothing stuck. Most of the people I spoke with had too-busy lives or ulterior motives to recruit me.
I was beginning to feel like the bird from that children’s book, asking “Are you my mentor?” to everyone I met. Then, I got a bagel with Gabi Moskowitz, who would become my first professional mentor. She’s a successful food blogger, Emerson alumna, and also happened to be my first counselor at Camp Tawonga (go Ladybugs!). When we met up, I was feeling hopeless as hell. I didn’t know what I wanted to be, where I wanted to go, or how I was supposed to get there. She asked all the right questions, stayed super attentive, and kept checking in on me until I had my wits about me. She did this not because she had to, but because she wanted to.
Soon, Gabi introduced me to a friend who worked at Chewse, and soon after that, I had my first big girl job. We check in every now and then to exchange stories (hers are a bit more “red carpet” than mine) and I know that when the next professional-cultural-geographical-intrapersonal identity crisis rolls around, she’ll be right there.
But having a job doesn’t make you exempt from needing a mentor. There are still plenty of questions, fears, and confusions that come with the part of being in your 20s. That’s where Shaina comes in. Shaina is my manager, my friend, and my mentor. I’m inspired every day by her brain, her, her warmth, and her ability to keep a clear, calm head when pressure is high. She is attentive, focused, and direct. She says it like it is with confidence. She runs toward problems and is eager to solve them. Plus, she makes a mean cheese plate.
A good mentor will stop what she’s doing when you need them. She helps you discover truths about yourself with patient and curious conversation. She gives you affirmation when deserved, but isn’t afraid to say it like it is. She doesn’t act like your mentor, but your equal, and places value on all of your words. She makes you feel smart. She teaches you what she knows, and is truthful about what she doesn’t.
Shaina knows a lot. She’s taught me how to have tough conversations (read this book!), make Excel my personal slave, and among many other things, bake the best crackers in the entire world.
The fact that Shaina bakes her own crackers is an excellent metaphor for what makes her so special. Sure, you can take the easy way out, assuming that crackers are just a store-bought vehicle for taking down a cheese plate, but that’s not the right way to do it. What Shaina does, she does with an eye toward detail, and another toward intention. If you’re going to eat a cracker, it’d better be a damn good one. And if it’s gonna be damn good, you’d better make it yourself.
Hence, these Parmesan Thyme Crackers - your newest party trick. Imagine a savory shortbread cookie that buttery, a little salty, and a lot addictive. Best of all, it withstands the most stubborn spreading cheeses without crumbling. You know they’re good when you’re not even sad that the Triple Cream Brie is almost gone because there are plenty of those Parmesan thyme miracles left to sustain you.
Best of all, they’re super easy to make. The proportion of time spent to bonus points awarded is seriously unbalanced in your favor. Make these crackers for your next dinner party and throw an extra batch in the freezer for a rainy day. Better yet, share this recipe with your mentor and watch the student become the teacher.
(recipe by Ina Garten)
Ingredients (makes 12-ish crackers)
¼ pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
3 ounces grated or chopped Parmesan cheese
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
½ teaspoon black pepper
Whip the butter with an electric mixer until creamy.
Add all other ingredients and mix to combine.
Place dough on a lightly floured surface and roll into a 3-inch thick log. Wrap the log in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or over night.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with silicon baking mats or parchment paper.
Unwrap the cold dough and gently cut into ¼ inch thick slices. Place on the baking sheet and bake for 22-25 minutes. Remove and place on a cooling rack for a few minutes before serving.