I stopped in at a new client's house one Thursday evening to discuss a faux finish in her dining room. She came to the door, wiping her hands on an apron and apologizing for the mess in her kitchen. I stepped inside and surveyed the "mess" she was describing.
Lovely, fresh food was being washed and prepared...piles of colorful vegetables, cooking ingredients and glass bowls of all sizes met my eyes. On the stove simmered something that smelled wonderful. My client's husband was shelling shrimp over the sink.
"We're having a dinner party," she explained.
"Oh, I'm so sorry to have come at a bad time!" I said, and turned to leave.
"No, no. The dinner party is on Saturday so you are fine," she reassured me.
"But it's only Thursday! Wow! You really get prepared early!" I thought of my own hastily thrown together dinner parties and how many times I'd just be getting home from the grocery store an hour before my guests were to arrive.
"Oh, it's just a little something I learned in culinary school," she shrugged as if it were nothing. "It's called "mis en place," and it means you get everything assembled ahead of time so when you start to cook, it goes quickly and easily!"
Mis en place! The term I've been searching for all my life! I sped home and immediately looked it up. Pronounced "meez on plas," it literally means "put in place."
With mis en place, Recipes are reviewed, to check for necessary ingredients and equipment.Ingredients are measured out, washed, chopped and placed in individual bowls. Equipment such as spatulas and blenders are prepared for use, while ovens are preheated. Preparing the mis en place ahead of time allows the chef to cook without having to stop and assemble items, which is desirable in recipes with time constraints.
Since then I've tried to incorporated the concept of "mis en place" into my cooking habits and in many other areas of life as well. It's amazing how much easier it is to accomplish tasks when you don't have to stop down to look for a tool or find an ingredient. Having things assembled beforehand makes me feel organized and efficient. I like the way that feels.
Do you use mis en place? Maybe you do without even knowing you were so high falutin'! You've been all "French cuisin-ey" and you just thought you were naturally organized! Or is it something you could start to incorporate into your everyday life?
Today's Small Thing is to take your level of classiness up a notch and learn a new French term, "mis en place." I try and say it with the correct accent so I sound just as classy as I feel. "Meez on plas." Do you have a task that requires several steps and many tools or ingredients? Try getting everything ready and assembled before you begin and see if you aren't the most clever thing around!
POINTS: 40 for finding a way to use "mis en place" in a task
BONUS: 10 for impressing someone with your newly acquired French vocabulary...share your new term and enjoy your heightened mystique.