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Anxious gatekeeping

Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Mise en place



In cooking, "mise en place" means having everything available and ready before you start. You never have to go look for something in the middle of your cooking. I recently learned this term and it makes a lot of sense. I am a very fast cook, rarely wasting time. The other day I cooked steak, grilled red peppers and asparagus, and a pasta dish with a carmelized onion, baby bella mushrooms, and red wine sauce. I timed myself and it took 36 minutes from washing my hands to putting it all on the plate for myself to eat. If I know where everything is before I start, if I spend a few minutes at the beginning getting my mise an place organized, then I am never interrupted. Nothing is burnt or undercooked. When I shop for a meal, I leave everything in the shopping bag in the fridge until I am ready to cook. Then I don't have to root around in the refrigerator for everything I need.

In scholarly writing "mise en place" means exactly the same thing. Every book or article you are going to cite should be on hand before you start your writing session. Some day I will be able to do this as efficiently as I cook. It's something for me to think about. I've always used the excuse that I live in two places. Once I move permanently away from St Louis, I will have no more excuses.

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