Tuesday, January 28, 2014

managing time

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” - Douglas Adams 

Time management is something I struggle with, I am making no attempts to deny that, but sometimes I wonder if all I really need are less interruptions. There are folks who get a heck of a lot more done in a day than I do, but then; how much control do I want to assert over others in my household so that I can achieve my own goals? And, as my mother succinctly put it; does anyone really want to live with someone like that? 

I’m not terribly good at multitasking, in fact, I don’t even believe in it. Many things in life simply deserve your complete attention, and there is plenty of research to suggest that while you may be doing five things simultaneously, you are not doing any of them well. Yes, I’m very capable when it comes to stirring multiple pots and getting multiple elements of meal to the table at the same time. However; making dinner, tending laundry, talking on the phone, caulking the tub, and answering an email message, while simultaneously balancing my check book, is just not in the cards. For this reason, I also don’t believe I’d make a very good line cook or chef. Or mother. 

I am, however, a firm believer in the French idea of mise en place: best translated as everything in its place. This is not just about gathering all of your ingredients, preparing, measuring, and weighing items in advance, everything in its place includes your mind. Before you begin any meal or recipe, you need to make sure your head is in the game. Mise en place means that you’ve thought about the shape of a dish, how it will come together, and even - if applicable - how it will go onto the plate. It means that you have read and understand all the steps of a recipe before you begin. You know where the gaps are, and ideally use this time to work clean (clean as you go) but also where you can allow for interruptions and even enjoyable distractions like a glass of wine or a cup of tea. Applying the principal of mise en place may not prevent you from burning the rice, but it will reduce stress in the kitchen and it will make you a better more consistent cook. Finally, when attempting any type of Asian cuisine, from Thai to Indian, having all of the ingredients ready to go before you begin isn’t just recommended, it is essential.

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