Sunday, February 18, 2007
I first heard the term mise en place years ago from Anthony Bourdain, in Kitchen Confidential. He explains it in more detail in his Les Halles Cookbook: "The absolute foundation of professional cooking, and the most useful thing I can teach you, is the concept of mise en place. . . . Literally speaking, mise en place means "put in place," but it is so much more than that.
For the professional, one's meez is an obsession, one's sword and shield, the only thing standing between you and chaos. If you have your meez right, you are "set up," stocked, organized, ready with everything you need and are likely to need for the tasks at hand. You know where everything is. You know how much you have. (The right amount, of course.) As a result, your mind is similarly arranged, rested, and ready to cook--a perfect mirror of your work area.
In less metaphysical terms, having your meez together means that you have cleaned and cleared your work area in advance and have assembled every item of food and every utensil and tool you will require, and put them in accessible, comfortable locations, ready for use." (He goes on to explain this even more; please see the book for the rest.)
When I read this, I thought how well it applied to so much else besides cooking. Almost every kind of project we do (paying bills, tending the garden, writing a report, decluttering the closet) goes more easily if we take the time to prepare and ensure we have everything we need at the ready.
Gretchen Rubin at The Happiness Project had a similar reaction.