Mise en place (French pronunciation: [mi zɑ̃ ˈplas]) is a French culinary phrase which means “putting in place” or “everything in its place”. It refers to the setup required before cooking, and is often used in professional kitchens to refer to organizing and arranging the ingredients.
I’ve started watching the “Worst Cooks in America” as a filler for the daily news I usually watch, as a Lenten sacrifice. It’s on the Food Network.
I have extreme Frontotemporal issues plus ADHD, so for years my brain crumbles more and more trying to perform simple, routine tasks. Morning wake up tasks. Picking up & sorting the mail. Laundry! Starting something but finishing something else. Getting lost — in this building, a city, or my kitchen.
Mise en place.
I knew to wash up as I cooked, and I loved cooking! But I began to get confused. I’d leave something in the oven and would find it burned. Or forget an ingredient. Or wake up and find my kitchen looked like it had been burgled, milk in the cupboard, perishables on the counter.
The faucet running when I came downstairs upon waking. The freezer door open…
Mise en place. Everything in its place.
- Before I even begin, I need time to make a list.
- I need everything I will need in front of me before I even begin. Whatever the task.
- An emotional task might require family or friends, Kleenex, wastebasket, notepads and pencils with erasers. And someone to hold me as I get lost, and I will.
- I need to know mise en place encompasses beginning to end, the closure. Left open, I am overwhelmed.
- A trash can. Doesn’t matter if food, beauty or mail, my mise en place must include this. Sometimes it’s an emotional container, but nothing can be left on my table. Else I will return to the same task each day, through the night, and in every spare moment.
Last year I volunteered to make simple deviled eggs. It took 3 days. The shopping. The boiling. The cooling. The peeling. The rinsing. The cutting. Removing & mashing the yolks, adding the spices, mayo & mustard, cooling, piping and decoration with paprika and parsley. Finally, plating. And wrapping. And cleaning up and putting away. Something I used to do while making an entire dinner & dessert.
One day my Occupational Therapist asked, “How would you wash your hair?”
I told her I’d get everything ready: towel for my hair, towel to kneel on, shampoo & conditioner, brush and dryer. I’d disengage the shower head, tuck in my collar and begin to wash my hair.
She was puzzled. “Why do you kneel?”
Again she asked, “Why do you kneel?”
“My tub has been cut down to a 4 inch side for safety, so I have to lean far over to not flood the bathroom floor.”
She could see I’d thought this out. “I really thought you’d say, while in the shower, I’d wash my hair.”
I replied, “You didn’t ask how I’d take a shower.”
Mise en place.
~ Papa? It’s Vicki. I’m in place, I guess…