Mise en place (MEEZ ahn plahs) is a French culinary phrase which means “putting in place” or “everything in its place.” Pans are prepared. Mixing bowls, tools and equipment set out. It is a technique chefs use to assemble meals so quickly and effortlessly.
I first came across this term and its execution when my daughter, Nell, was in culinary school some years back. After seeing it in action, I realized this is what I do organically in my life. For me, it comes naturally, but I would suggest incorporating it into your flow, if possible. Not just in the kitchen for food preparation, which truly makes the whole task easier, but in other areas of your life as well.
The evening before our farm harvest morning, I take time to go out to our shed and wipe down all the surfaces, sweep the floor, assemble the crates in the garden cart for the field, put twist ties in a bucket, knives with them, get my orders and the bags for filling them organized. In the next morning’s pre-dawn light, when we are ready to harvest, all I have to do is get my coffee and go out and start.
When our co-op order delivery is on the way, I have the bed of the truck cleaned out, the order paperwork set, the shed clean and ready to receive it. The truck arrives, at whatever Hawaiian-style time they see fit to deliver, and we are set.
A turnover day in our rental cottage is a check out at 11AM and a check in at 3PM, so little time for chaos. So, the evening before or early on turnover day, I have the fresh linens and cleaning supplies ready to go in baskets, so as soon as I have said aloha to the guests leaving, I can hustle right in to clean and set up for the guests arriving.
There are other small ways I find mise en place to be helpful in reducing bedlam on a daily basis. When I pick up the mail and bring it home from the post office, I resist just putting it into a pile to deal with later. Rather I put into a basket all the recycling (an insane amount of paper, I might add – despite my attempts to reduce it!), open up the rest and put the few bills I still get in paper into their cubby on my desk, the magazines on the table for reading whenever I get to them, the deposit checks by my computer to send confirmations to the guests and then into my bank envelope.
I so vividly remember my father uttering the platitude of “A place for everything and everything in its place.” This is its own kind of mise in place and I find my life simplified a hundred fold by practicing it. This has saved me countless hours of needless searching and also made my home feel spacious and somewhat zen-like.
I am often teased about these habits of mine. Some chalk it up to me being a Virgo. However, I find it makes my life smoother and makes my tasks flow more effortlessly, leaving me more time for my own simple pleasures.
As the old advertising slogan says, “Try it, you’ll like it!”