If you have taken a cooking class, watched Julia Child, or read a classic cookbook, you are likely familiar with the idea of mise en place. Before the magic of mixing, sauteeing, or baking, comes the mise en place. Open your pantry and your spice drawer and select the ingredients you need. Pull out your mixing bowls, measuring cups, and pots and pans. Account for every item your recipe calls for. Chop and measure. Only then can the magic begin.
In my early cooking days, I was a faithful observer of this time-honored organizational tool and efficiency enhancer. But over the years, as I became less reliant on recipes and better able to ballpark a measurement, regimented preparation gave way to a more laid-back approach. I learned to substitute or improvise based on what I picked up at the farmer's market or what was tucked away in my pantry. And that spontaneity became half the fun.
But lately, when putting something (read: anything) fresh and interesting on the table for the babe seems a victory, elaborate recipes and formal technique have been tucked away for special occasions. So when a generous friend and neighbor recently sent us a delivery from one of the many meal prep services available in our area, I was intrigued.
As I opened the box and unpacked the ingredients, I immediately smiled: mise en place! The various spices and sauces were already measured, the produce and proteins were accounted for, needing only to be rinsed and chopped. With much of the busy work out the way, dinner came together effortlessly, and perhaps most importantly, I was able to be more focused and present with my daughter throughout the process. She poured little bottles of pre-measured liquids into bowls, tore herbs and leaves and tossed them into the salad, and stirred with delight, announcing with a smile as we sat down at the table, "Mama I made this!"
Whether you undertake the effort yourself or enlist outside assistance, putting things in order can save you time and enable you to be a more present as you move through the process. Whether cooking a meal, undertaking a home improvement project, or engaging in a creative endeavor, a little mise en place can go a long way.
How can a little order and organization help you be more present today?