I have a student who already has a career in bread and pastries. She's a baker who works all through the night baking bread for local bakeries. She'll rise at 2:30 AM, work all night, and report to my 10:00 AM class covered in flour. The smell of freshly baked bread precedes her and lingers when she departs.
Last night, my baker student stops by to make potato latkes (pancakes) for my family. She wants to share this special Hanukkah food tradition with us, and she even brings a Menorah to light at sundown. As a Jewish daughter, she said the blessing as the candles were lit in her family, so she also proclaims the Hebrew blessing as a treat for my Christian family as the flames flicker.
"This is amazing!" I remark.
She looks over at me (while putting more latkes in the pan), and says, "Mise en place."
"Me za what?" I ask, laughing.
When the latkes finish, she turns them over onto a plate beside her, already lined with a paper towel--mise en place.
I serve Italian for dinner; my husband prays over our meal; we enjoy Jewish latkes as the candles burn down.
But all night, mise en place resonates long after I should be sleeping. Can I do that with my life? Can I get everything ready--anticipating--so I offer spaces of peace and organization? Those well-planned days are my best days. No scurrying, no energy wasted. I have everything I need right here before me. Living with flair means mise en place.