Sunday 3 February 2013

Mise en place

Mise en place - frog for "everything in its place" - a particularly important concept when working in the kitchen.

It's always used in terms of prepping to cook. However, it struck me the other day that whilst lots of emphasis is put on getting ready to cook, no effort appears to be put into minimising the amount of washing up that any given meal produces.

The catalyst was getting up at 0600 and finding that Junior had cooked himself a midnight snack of bacon and mee goreng. The evidence was all over the kitchen - splattered fat on the cook tops, dirty dishes, pots and pans in the sink and a slab of uncooked bacon left sitting on the bench top. He'd managed to feed himself, but the effort of putting away the unused food and cleaning up was clearly beyond him. Poor petal. I was so caring and considerate of his weakened physical state that I waited until 0700 before booting him out of bed and putting him to work at the sink.

I'm not a big fan of washing up, so I do my best to generate the minimum amount when producing anything to eat. When I cook something, after I've done it the first time, I think about how I can do it then next time with less washing up. Can I order the way I prepare and cook the dish to ensure there isn't a sink full of muck at the end?

This stuff is never covered in any cookery books that I've ever read. It's like the people writing recipes have never done any time and motion studies into how to make them more effectively. I need to minimise the amount of dirty stuff I produce because we've got a small kitchen - we simply don't have space to pile up masses of used pots. It's a bit like cooking in a submarine galley.

Here's a simple example. I made semi-fredo not long ago. The recipe tells you to separate eggs, whip the yolks with sugar over a double boiler then whip the cream, then whip the whites and then fold the whole lot in together. It such a simple thing, but if you whip the whites first, you don't have to wash the beaters before moving onto the next items. The whites won't whip as well if the beaters and contaminated with egg yolk or cream, so if you do them last, you have to wash them. If you do the whites first, it doesn't matter if a bit of egg white ends up in the cream etc etc. That simple change in steps saves a bit of time and means you don't have to stick your hands in the sink during preparation.

I do this with all my recipes, trying to save a dirty bowl or two for each dish in a meal. If you're putting something together that involves multiple dishes, it can save a lot of washing up. I think some people say they dislike cooking not because they dislike the cooking part, but because they dislike the cleaning up afterwards part. To me, it makes a lot of sense for recipe book writers to reconstruct their recipes in a way that creates less muck and havoc.


Sandi said...

Sense, unfortunately BoaB, is not at all common these days. I doubt that all those "celebrity chefs", TV cooking show contestants and such ever have to clean up after themselves.
Gary O'Callaghan of 2UE (and Sammy Sparrow) fame had the best approach to allocating family household duties I've ever heard. Where most people would have one kid on cooking duty and another on cleanup, not Gary. In his house the cook also cleaned up and washed up. That effectively taught the kids to minimise mess, number of pots, pans, utensils etc used when on cooking duty. Rare sense indeed.

Anonymous said...

Minimising washing up is something I have always thought about, even as a kid - and had reinforced during my house-sharing days, during which I once shared with somebody who seemed to think it was her duty to dirty every single pan/pot/appliance/item of cutlery when it was her turn to cook. You know the type, leaves the kitchen looking like an explosion in a pie factory.