|Mise En Place by Christopher M|
I learn a lot from these shows. Really, I do. For example, I’ve recently learned the following :
Buddah’s hand – a type of citrus fruit that looks like over processed dreadlocks;
Molecular gastronomy – the use of science in the preparation of food (don’t most fast food chains fall into this category?);
Chiffonade – to slice leafy veggies or herbs into long, thin strings;
Mise en place – French cooking term meaning “everything in place;"
Rocky Mountain oysters – bull’s testicals; I kid you not;
Gastrique - a reduction of vinegar or wine, sugar, and fruit used as a sauce, not what your tummy feels when you eat too much spicy food.
Rocky Mountain oysters may make you giggle and/or gag, but the real gem here in mise en place. Mise en place is the pre-preparation – the draining, chopping, measuring, even chiffonading, that goes on before the actual cooking begins.
I’m currently in my mise en place phase of writing. That’s the few days to a week before I begin writing on a new novel. Here’s my list of dicing and slicing before I sit down and start at line 1, page 1, chapter 1:
Clean apartment thoroughly – it’s a ritual because it probably won’t be cleaned again beyond a lick and a promise until book is done;
Clean off desk – important to start with a nice tidy surface because I won’t see the top of it again for a long time;
Update web page, calendar, catch up on correspondence – see reason under clean apartment;
Decide on time frame of new book and print out blank calendar page relating to that time period;
Post any research photos on front of desk within my view;
Jot character names and notes (outside of usual series characters) on large white board posted to side of desk, along with any short notes on plots and sub plots;
Update notes and back story on returning characters;
Fill freezer with frozen dinners.
Bad boy celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain has called mise en place his religion. For me, it’s more like giving myself a hearty, warm breakfast before setting out on a long journey on a cold day. If everything I need is in its place and all is right with my little world, I am free to throw myself into my writing unencumbered by the daily details of my life, at least for awhile.
And, in case you’re wondering, I do utilize mise en place when I cook. Although, in my kitchen it means piercing the plastic on the frozen dinner before shoving it into the microwave.
Sue Ann Jaffarian
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