I learned a new cooking term recently, “mise en place.”
It’s pronounced meese on plos. It’s French and it translates as everything in its place.
Apparently in the restaurant world it refers to having all your ingredients and tools prepared and at the ready when you begin a dish.
It’s imperative in a busy restaurant kitchen to do this so things keep moving and guests get their orders promptly. It’s also very helpful in a home kitchen as well. It keeps us from starting a dish and finding out halfway through that we’re missing a critical ingredient.
Or that we loaned out that special tool we love to use in this dish.
Or that it takes much longer to prep a certain ingredient than you have time in the cooking process.
Any of these can ruin your dish.
Isn’t the same true about homeschooling?
It's Not Just for Restaurants
In the summer all my diligent homeschool friends are busy planning and purchasing for the new school year.
If we take this few weeks of break that we give ourselves to do some careful planning, we can set ourselves and our children on a successful path this year. How terrible would it be if you pick out a great a Language Arts program but wait to buy the literature books only to find them unavailable when you need them? Lay out lesson plans. Line up textbooks, living books, supplemental material, science supplies, and even craft supplies for the whole year now then watch your delicious year unfold before you.
“Everything in its place” is not just an annual project for successful homeschooling. It’s a daily challenge. If your home and especially your homeschooling supplies are organized things go more smoothly. I have a commercial kitchen shelf full of bins which holds each students’ books for the year, as well as extra paper, composition notebooks, pens, pencils, and various other small school supplies.
When anybody needs regular tools for doing school, the first stop is the bins. Another good way to keep things in order is a bookshelf with one shelf per child. I have a friend who gets a small rolling plastic 3 drawer cabinet for each student.
Everyone Needs to Cooperate
Buying the furniture and school supplies is just the beginning. I am sorry to tell you that’s usually the easy part.
Once things are organized the whole family needs to be trained to keep it that way.
This doesn’t just happen in most households. For most people it does not come naturally to put things back where you found them. Busy people, you know the kind that never stop moving, can often be the worst. It takes time to convince them that overall you can get more done if you always put things where they belong when you finish with them.
Some children have an overwhelming need for justice in all things. It can be difficult to convince these students that it would be healthier for the whole family if they put things where they belong not matter where they found it, like where their brother just dropped it last time. Be patient with your family. Be a faithful example of always putting things back where they belong. Instruct and remind repeatedly as long as it takes. Be vigilant. Don’t let a single day go by without returning all homeschooling supplies to their proper places before playtime or anything else.
Back to the Kitchen
Whether you like cooking or not “mise en place” helps. I believe that so much that when I write up recipes I’ve found or invented, I include the preparation instructions right in the ingredient list.
Meredith Curtis and I have written a few great cookbooks for supplements to homeschool classes. You’ll find most of these recipes are laid out that way. Some recipes have virtually no prep work required besides measuring so you simply can line up measuring cups full of ingredients and pour them in as you go.
Other recipes require so many vegetables to be chopped and combined it’s best just to pour them strait into a large missing bowl.
I have a large cutting board so somethings I’ll chop one ingredient then slide it over before chopping the next. In the picture below you’ll see most of the ingredients you need to make my newest dish, Crab and Zucchini Pasta.
The crab meat is still draining in a colander and a couple of other ingredients are out of the shot but standing by in their bottles. Starting from the right you can see 1 Medium Zucchini, Diced, 1.5 Cups of Raddiatore Pasta, 1 Small Habanero Pepper, Stemmed, Seeded, and Finely Chopped, 4 Cloves Garlic, Sliced, ¼ Cup Chopped Fresh Basil Leaves, ½ Cup Chopped Fresh Flat-leaf Parsley, 2 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter, Room Temperature, and ½ Cup White Wine.
This cutting board sits right next to my stove where all the ingredients can be easily added to the pots waiting for them.
Here’s the full recipe.
Crab & Zucchini Pasta
2 Tbsp. Kosher Salt
1½ Cups Raddiatore Pasta
3 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Medium Zucchini, Diced
4 Cloves Garlic, Sliced
1 Small Habanero Pepper, Stemmed, Seeded, and Chopped
½ Cup White Wine
2 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter, Room Temperature
8 oz. Jumbo Lump Crabmeat, Cleaned of all Cartilage and Shells
½ Cup Chopped Fresh Parsley
¼ Cup Chopped Fresh Basil Leaves
Zest of ½ Lemon
Pink Himalayan Salt
Fresh Ground Black Pepper
Red Pepper Flakes
Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
Add kosher salt to 8 cups of water in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Add pasta, stir and cook 8 - 10. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta. While the pasta is cooking, add olive oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the zucchini and sauté 5 minutes, until slightly browned. Add the garlic, and habanero. Sauté for one minute. Add the wine, 1 Tbsp. of butter and the reserved pasta water. Cook for another minute. Turn off the heat and gently drop in the crab meat. Add the drained pasta, parsley, basil, lemon zest, and 1 Tbsp. butter. Season with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and a drizzle of olive oil. Toss to combine well. Serve with Parmesan Cheese as an optional topping.
We hope these organization tips will be a blessing in your house.
We also invite you to try out our recipes from history and around the world! You'll have fun whipping up new dishes and everyone loves learning more when it's in the kitchen. Just click on the photos to learn more about our cookbooks.
Until next time, Happy Homeschooling!