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PUT IN PLACE

PUT IN PLACE

It’s the first thing they teach you in chef school:  a system called mise-en-place, or literally, “put in place.”   It’s a French phrase that means to gather and arrange the ingredients and tools needed for cooking.

The mise evolved out of the rigid “brigade system” of culinary hierarchy codified in the 19th century by Chef Georges-Auguste Escoffier.  This system emphasizes focus and self-discipline and a high level of organization and order.

Escoffier would probably have agreed with Ben Franklin who once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

In the high-stress world of the professional chefs, planning and preparation are paramount.  How else could they prepare so many meals of exceptional quality, one after the other in a three-hour period, night after night after night?

Preparation is the essence of mise-en-place.

BASIC MISE

At its most basic, mise-en-place means to set out all of your ingredients before you start to cook. Measure out what you will need, chop the vegetables that will need to be chopped, and have everything ready on the counter or in small bowls on a tray.

In the following YouTube video, “How to Mise-en-Place, published by Cooking Light, Chef Keith Schroeder, author of MAD DELICIOUS: The Science of Making Healthy Food Taste Amazing!, demonstrates how home cooks can start to “mise” their recipes.

TAKING IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL

If you talk to professional chefs, that part of the mise-en-place is just the tip of a very large iceberg.  Some of them get downright Zen or Jedi about it.  Everything has to be in place, including your stance and your mindset.

Writer Dan Charnas, of hip-hop journalism  fame, wrote a book last year, WORK CLEAN:  The Life-Changing Power of Mise-en-Place to Organize Your Life, Work, and Mind.  It grew out of his interviews of dozens of culinary professionals and executives and focused on his understanding of mise-en-place as a personal code of ethics that emphasized excellence.

As Charnas says in an article he wrote for National Public Radio, “….most colleges and grad schools don’t teach basic organization.  Culinary schools and professional kitchens do.”

This YouTube video, “The Ingredients of Work Clean,” published by Rodale Press shortly before the book came out, contains a brief explanation of what it is: a simple system that helps you focus your actions and accomplish your aims

  • Planning is prime. Be ruthlessly honest about time and timing.  It’s the only way you can set it up right.
  • Arrange spaces so you can perfect moves. Place things so you can make your moves with just the flick of your fingers.  Know how you move and place your dishes of prepared ingredients and your tools right where you will be able to reach them when it’s time to use them.
  • Clean as you go. Keep your tools and your station as organized as when you first started.  This knife goes in this space.  The chopped chives go right there. Everything that is no longer needed does not belong at your station.  You’ll need it later so if you’ve got a breathing space, wash up the thing you’ve used and put it aside for when you’ll next need it.
  • Know what to start first. Start the longest process first.  It will be done by the time you get to the shortest process and by the time you’re done, you’ll be at the end.
  • Do not wait to finish. It isn’t finished until it’s delivered.  As soon as it’s ready, let it go.
  • Slow down to speed up. Don’t panic when things get hectic.  Calm your body, calm your mind.  Hurry opens the door to mistakes.  Get it right, and fast will happen.
  • Open your eyes and ears. Balance your internal and external awareness.  Remain focused and open.   Be receptive.  React as needed to the world around you but stay focused on what you are doing.
  • Call and call back. Streamline and confirm essential communications.  Follow up, update your team and turn information into intel you all can use to work together well.
  • Inspect and correct. Excellence requires vigilance.  Check your work.
  • Aim for total utilization. Avoid wasting time, space, motion, resources or persons.  Figure out how to tap into the flow of using them all and making them move in the direction you want them to go.  Look to create a synergy that you can step into.

The real is that mise-en-place is about being able to “work clean.”  It’s not about “creating order,” as in, “Gee, wow, I’ve organized my desk and doesn’t it look clean and cool?”

What mise-en-place says is, “I’m committed to move through all of these many steps I need to do and get them done right.  When I’ve finished with all the steps of this project  I am on now, I’ll wrap it up and deliver it.  Then I’ll resume my stance at my station, put myself in a position where everything is in place for me to work on the next project, and I’ll deliver that one.”

With mise-en-place you can repeat as needed for as long as necessary and it all gets done right every time.  You think about the process of making something from start to finish, and then you set up a system so you can get it done.

The system you create and maintain will allow you to stay focused on the most important thing at each moment.  What you need to do to accomplish something gets done faster and more proficiently because everything you need to do it is right there in front of you.

It’s cooking, planned and executed like a military campaign, and the moves are eminently transferable to other life-things as well.

A companion YouTube video, also published by Rodale Press, The Daily Meeze is a short introduction to the 30-minute daily planning session that Charnas recommends as a way to take mise-en-place out of the kitchen and apply it to regular life.

You may be able to figure out your own way to make your “meeze” your own.  Think about it.

Here’s a poem:


I SHOW UP

I suppose one thing there is

That can be said about me:

I show up.

It isn’t much, that.

Not earth-shaking….

I raise no mountains.

 

It’s not like I’m riding

On the waves at Jaws,

Throwing myself down

The face of some

Massive wall of water,

The epitome of Cool.

 

I show up.

What needs to be done

Gets done because of that.

The gears get oiled,

The wheels keep turning

And nothing comes

To a screeching halt.

 

I show up.

By Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  “Dongjiadu Mise-en-place” by Gary Stevens via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you’d drop a comment or note below and tell me your thoughts.

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MAKING ROOM

MAKING ROOM

I’m re-reading an invaluable book, CREATING A LIFE WORTH LIVING, which was written by Carol Lloyd, the founder of The Writing Parlor and the Life Worth Living workshops.  Over the years since I first read it in 2011 it has kept me focused on integrating my propensities for Making into a regular, ordinary sort of life.  It is an ongoing process, always.

As she was putting together her book, Lloyd interviewed a slew of creative people and picked their brains about how they do what they do.  In an interview with performance artist Chris Wink who was part of a New York-based theater group which was a collaboration of three artists, there was this thing:

“If you’re going to create something, the first step isn’t to start creating something, it’s to create the process,” Wink says.  “…tending to the vessel and shaping it into what it’s going to be is really important.”

The “process” is a matter of making room in your life to create whatever it is you want to make.  It is about finding the space and the time and it’s about choosing how you’re going to move forward towards your goals.

sunrise
Sunrise by Jessica S. via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]

Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom):  an understanding that by eliminating what doesn’t matter you can do more of what does.  [Following your own heartsong matters.  It’s a good thing to make room for it.]

TENDING TO THE PROCESS

For the past month or so I’ve been working on clearing out the workspaces in my little house, re-organizing and de-cluttering them so that I can see what’s there and see the resources I have on hand.  Even more importantly, I have been clearing my head and seeing where I am going with all this dancing about.

I have been looking at how well my Making has been integrated into the rest of my life and tweaking the places where there are glitches or downright knotted and tangled bits, trying to get to smooth.  I am seeing how I need to make blocks of time available so I can actually sit down and make a something without having to worry about needing to be someplace else.

I am also clearing away all the non-essential stuff that clutters up my calendar with distractions from this thing I’ve declared is most important to me:  making stories, making art, and making meaning.  I’ve deliberately turned away from perfectly good opportunities for me to practice skills I’ve developed that lead me away from what I am calling “Flying My Falcon.”

I am setting up routines and rituals that help keep my energy flowing so that I have the wherewithal to actually make something worthwhile.  I am touching base again with the attitudes, the heart-people and heart-places that are valuable to me because they help pump up the wellspring that powers my Falcon-flying.

It is always an ongoing thing, this tending to your process.  It’s easy sometimes to get so caught up in the day-to-day crises and fumbles and stumbles that the thing you want most to manifest sort of fades away into the ethers somehow.

SHAPING THE VESSEL

The following YouTube Video, 8 Artists: Advice to the Young, was published by the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art’s Louisiana Channel.  The video montage has snippets from interviews with Serbian performance artist Marina Abramovich, South African artist William Kentridge, rock singer and poet Patti Smith, American singer David Byrne, German film director Wim Wenders, Danish-Islandic artist Olafur Eliassan and British artists Dinos and Jake Chapman.

It’s wise and warm and a very nice space to put your head.  And that’s another part of creating process…

If you want to listen to the full interviews for these and other artists who are equally inspiring, CLICK HERE.

Here’s a poem:


MAKING MYSELF

I am making myself,

Day by day by day.

The choices I make, the moves I do

Create the conditions around me

As I play in the World,

As I play with all the other peeps

Who are all busy

Making their own selves too.

 

There are those who say there is a Creator,

An enormous amorphous being who

Personally had a hand in the making of me,

Who continues to oversee my days

Who notices every time I fall down,

Who apparently is the archetypical Control Freak Extraordinaire

Since this non-gendered One apparently feels a need

To direct my every move.

 

I find that…scary.

Well…

Lookit….

 

When I try to be the one herding lemming-folk

Who are determined on self-destruction,

Or are just plain oblivious to dangers and sharp teeth,

There’s a certain point where I drown

In the details involved in taking each one in hand

And guiding every one of their steps,

Soothing away the hurt of every bump.

 

I notice that it never helps the lemming-folk grow,

This interference of mine.

Their sleepwalking apparently deepens.

They still fall off cliffs.

They run headlong into crocodiles and things.

They pick up hammers and whack themselves on their own foreheads.

They blindly blunder into each other and bonk each other in the jaw.

Meanwhile, I go nuts,

Stuck on a meaningless treadmill of

Amoeba-like action/reaction ad infinitum.

I would not wish that state of being on any creature…

Especially not the one who put together all the wondrousness of the Universe!

 

Myself, I think the Dude/Dudette or Whatever

Just placed a spark of Itself into everything alive,

And each sparklet likes to play.

So they do.

And that’s how the Universe got born,

And that’s how it keeps going.

 

Me, I think I’ll just keep trying to keep my sparklet going strong.

I figure it’s the best way I can help out….

by Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  Intention 1 by Teddy Llovet via Flickr [CC-BY-NC 2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you’d drop a comment or note below.

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