“I love the old school spirit of craftsmanship...” Fernando Gros.
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Blog // Thoughts
February 24, 2007

Mis en Place – The Ready State for Cooking And Maybe Also For Creativity And Spirituality?

The Happiness Project is a blog I’ve recently started reading. A few days back there was a fascinating piece connecting the cooking term/concept – Mis en Place, with the idea of happiness. If you are unfamilar with the term, then imagine the traditional cooking show (i.e., not Jamie Oliver) and think of all those carefully […]

The Happiness Project is a blog I’ve recently started reading. A few days back there was a fascinating piece connecting the cooking term/concept – Mis en Place, with the idea of happiness.

If you are unfamilar with the term, then imagine the traditional cooking show (i.e., not Jamie Oliver) and think of all those carefully prepared ingredients in matching bowls and containers – think, here’s the one I marinated earlier – think, pre-heated ovens – that’s Mis en Place (here’s some more practical examples). Rather tellingly, The Happiness Project reflects on the potential for this kind of approach for personal happiness.

I’ve been thinking about mis-en-place in my own life. Do I have the tools I need? Am I able to proceed in an orderly, serene way?

Nothing is more satisfying than working easily and well, and I’ve found that mis-en-place helps me achieve that state of flow. In particular, my most important equipment is my own head, so I’ve been paying more attention to my frame of mind. I also like the feeling of having an orderly collection of the tools that help me in my pursuit of happiness: my scoring charts, my list of Twelve Commandments, my pads of sticky notes, my garbage bags, my happiness box, my favorite pens, etc.

Now that I’ve learned the term mis-en-place, I’m more deliberate about composing myself to begin work‚ whether at my desk at home, on the long table at the library, or in a coffee shop.

Part of the reason why professional chefs obsess about Mis en Place (for examples read anything by anthony Bourdain) is because it is a strategy for dealing with stressful situations. Professional kiteches are always teetering on the brink of anarchy, so having good processes and preparation are essential to being able to cope with the job. For the home cook preparing a Mis en Place can seem like a lot of extra work, but the difference in one’s piece of mind while cooking and ability to entertain and be hospitable while cooking is dramatically enhanced by the effort.

More and more I’m finding myself thinking about Mis en Place in relation to creative activites and workflow, from writing, to arranging to recording. Leaving the desk ready for the next task, having the computer boot to applications, by-passing the check the email trap.

Potentially, this is also a fruitful line of thought for considering spirituality, preparation and state of mind. Mis en Place thinking is not about locking out interruption and chaos, but about being able to cope with it and adapt to it. It’s about respecting the processes involved in being able to express ourselves and tap into our personality.

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