Mise en Place

“A place for everything, everything in its place.”  —Benjamin Franklin

There is a cooking practice, called Mise en Place [mizã ‘plas] which means putting each ingredient in place before you begin cooking. This is a classical approach to cooking used by professionals to have every ingredient ready to go at the beginning of service. 28c13-img_7861For example, instead of having a bell pepper on the counter, a chef would prepare a container of bell pepper cut precisely the way she or he prefers. Chef would prepare this before any cooking began. Television cooking shows sometimes do this: every ingredient—even each spice—will be placed out on the counter in darling little bowls. This sort of preparedness and efficiency allows one to enjoy the un-rushed art of focused cooking that can lead to spectacular meals.

Red Black 2To follow “Mise en Place” literally creates a lot of dishes to wash and I have mixed feelings about this.  I do keep some sweet little bowls in my kitchen, because I love them and I have collected them over the years when I see a cute one at a thrift shop.  I don’t cook by recipe though, so I’m not measuring out a teaspoon of this or that and putting it in a lovely tiny bowl – only to empty it into the saute pan in a few moments.  In fact, I enjoy a variation of “Mise en Place” cooking simply by having the lemons, limes, garlic, ginger, and other spices and herbs conveniently located to my cooktop.  In fact, because my kitchen is tiny, everything is already conveniently located – and isn’t that the point of Mise en Place?

Red Black 1The beauty of a tiny kitchen is that you may set it up for efficiency. Everything can be right in its place, and right within reach, not because you got it out of the cabinet to put it there – but because that’s where it lives. The tiny house kitchen has a sort of built in efficiency that guarantees that every ingredient and tool is close at hand. You can still decide to prep ingredients before you begin cooking – such as cutting the vegetables and peeling the shrimp. Efficiency is one of the things I love about cooking in a tiny house kitchen.

49678-img_7877In fact, Xaver and I visited our favorite AirBNB for a working vacation. There is an expansive glorious tricked-out kitchen that is pure perfection in every respect and I love it! I was looking forward to really spreading out and enjoying some cooking and baking in a “real” kitchen after having lived tiny for so long. What surprised me was how frustrating it was to want something that was on the other side of the kitchen and how much time I spent running around gathering up ingredients and equipment – not to mention cleaning it all and putting it back away. I was surprised how much longer it took me to prepare a very simple meal. I was also surprised by how annoying it was to want the plate that was held captive in a dish washer that wouldn’t be done washing for a while. In fact, I was very surprised to find that cooking in a large kitchen equipped with every possible convenience was much more tiring and much less fun than I remembered. Wasn’t this kitchen the holy grail? Surprisingly, no. Not to me. Not anymore.

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Mind you, our entire tiny house could fit inside that kitchen with room to spare – so the scale and proportions are hilarious by contrast.  For many people, a large kitchen is their “normal”. In fact, when we had the restaurant we had an expansive 580 sq ft prep kitchen and a smaller 240 sq ft kitchen where dishes were assembled and plated. I was used to cooking in a tricked-out kitchen… but look how my sense of normal changed after living tiny for a number of years?! Now, I’m perfectly happy to cook a great meal in a very small kitchen where everything is right at hand. In fact, having now tried the various cooking and baking options, I’d have to say that a tiny kitchen is my preference.  I’m as surprised by this as you are.

Shrimp Rohini

Shrimp Rohini, recipe by Carmen Shenk

We tend to think of having a small kitchen as a problem to be dealt with.  We wonder if we will have room to cook our favorite dishes or bake our favorite treats.  We fear running out of space and being frustrated by a confining kitchen. But living tiny has taught me that cooking in a tiny kitchen is a wonderful thing.  Everything is right there.  There are no wasted steps.  There is no needless complexity.  It’s just focused, fun, efficient cooking.  We tend to worry about the space we may lose in a tiny kitchen, but what if we focused instead on the efficiency we gain?

What if the tiny house kitchen was the “holy grail” of cooking and we just didn’t know it?!

That’s something to chew on, isn’t it?!

Signature Tiny House Foodie logoBTW, doesn’t that Shrimp dish look amazing?  The recipe I created for Shrimp Rohini is here… (along with the story of what inspired it) and that’s one dish where cooking in the traditional Mise en Place style is a very good idea!  Enjoy!

The Tiny House NC Street Festival

Street FestXaver and I had a great time at the Tiny House NC Street Festival in Pink Hill, North Carolina last weekend!  The hospitality of the host, Andrew Odom, and the community was spectacular.  They really did show southern hospitality and it was a joy to be there!

I spoke on Saturday and again on Sunday at “center stage” which was this lovely shaded spot with some bleachers and a sound system.  I spoke on Pain, Pie, Poverty, and Purpose.  We met the most interesting people – plus – touring those tiny homes and skoolies is always energizing to me!

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The best Shrimp & Grits I’ve ever had – from Chef & the Farmer

I tried to get a reservation at the Chef and the Farmer, but they were full.  That was fine, but then Andrew Odom pulled some strings and got us in, and boy are we grateful to him!!  Xaver and I even enjoyed a delectable meal of steak tartare, beet salad, catch of the day, shrimp & grits, and dessert!  That was the best meal I’ve ever had and it challenged me to up my game!  lol!

I’ve been getting really great feedback on the book and that is so gratifying.  After the many solitary months I have invested in getting those words on the page, it really rocks to share this message with the world and see it resonate with other people.  I wrote it to help people navigate the transition to living tiny – and it would appear that it is doing exactly that.  I’m soaking it all up and glowing because of this happy outcome!Screenshot (6)

Tiny houses and festivals are exciting and fun, but the downsizing process may not be.  I created a Super-Simple Kitchen Gear List to help you move gently through the process.  Sign up here to get the FREE PDF.  This is not dogma – just a resource to help you create the simple collection that is right for you.

PLUS, as an added bonusvideo series – here is my Right-Sizing Your Kitchen Video Series.  You will find this practical and helpful as you work through your kitchen at your own pace.  If you find that you need to replace or upgrade a few items, then check out my handy Buying Guide for help in selecting just the right items for you.  I have found that the quality-over-quantity approach really suits me.

I’m passionate about tiny house minimalism because it helped us hit the reset button on our lives and I know there are a lot of folks who would also benefit from a reset.  Plus, TINY house minimalism makes room for BIG dreams!  So I’ll happily travel to meet the people who are interested in tiny house living and I’ll have one message: I’m here to help you navigate through the transition of going tiny – especially in the kitchen.  You can do this, I know you can!

Deek Screenshot

Derek Diedricksen with my book.  His new book is coming out in November, so make sure to pre-order your copy now.

If you’re in the neighborhood, I’ll see you in Fredricksburg, Virginia on May 12th and 13th.  The festival details are here.  Look me up!  I’ll have the FESTIVAL COPY of my book available – and this is the edition that won’t be available anywhere else but a tiny house festival!  Soon enough (June?) it’ll be on Amazon and a lot of other interesting places.  At the moment – visiting a tiny house festival is the only way to get one.  That means I get to meet folks like you and we will talk together about our challenges and triumphs.  It’ll be great fun!

All my best,

TinyHouseFoodie.com
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#5 Vinnie Vlog – How we Designed the Interior of our Tiny House.

 

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I love designing homes and spaces and I love the renovation process.  So of course I’m eager to get going on designing the interior of our new Skoolie.

I’ll walk you through the steps of designing the floor plan for your tiny house in this video. First – measure everything. Then draw up your plan on Floorplanner.com, or any CAD program, or use graph paper. Draw the floor, mark where the windows go, and mark things like wheel wells, etc. Then measure the furniture or elements that you plan to use, and begin placing them in the space to see how they fit. Explore your options until you’ve found the option that suits you the best. Then get busy building!

This video isn’t really designed to teach you how to use the Floorplanner.com (or any other CAD) interface – it’s more just to show you how a tool like this can help you design.  It’s also really fun that you can look over the 3D version and see what you think.  It’s not going to be exact but it is enough to give you a feel for how things will look. From here you can make decisions on electrical and plumbing design, and choose your finishes.

It all starts with a sketch and a few good ideas. In our case it helps that we’ve already lived in 125 sq ft for 3+ years so we know what we need and what we want. Plus, this bus has 128 sq ft of livable space in it, so it’s not that different from what we are used to.  The design process is fun and invigorating and I think you’ll enjoy it. 29c45-1a2bcarmen

Vinnie Vlog #4 – Floor ~ Power ~ Mess

IMG_3403We’ve made some progress on the Skoolie this week.  The floor is down, and the wiring is underway!  We’re making progress!  We’ve got a little more work to do so stick around!!

What’s your favorite part of a Skoolie conversion?  The power? The furnishings?  The Kitchen or Bath?  Stick around.  We’re taking it all on – step by step!29c45-1a2bcarmen

Vinnie Vlog #3 – Choosing the Floor for the Skoolie

Welcome back everyone, today I’m talking about the choice we made for the floor of the Skoolie. We ended up with Kronotex USA American made laminate flooring, the color name is “Wilson Pine” that we purchased from The Habitat Store in Charlottesville, Virginia. Plus, Xaver takes over the camera while I give the tour of the space as I’ve imagined it – even a sneak peek at the kitchen! One of his favorite cars even makes an appearance. lol!  We’re having great February weather here in Virginia, so we’ve been able to work outside very comfortably to get the seats taken out and the flooring down.  It looks great so far!

Next, I’ll rattle-can the “baseboard” that came on the bus and the wheel covers, then those can go back in.  I’ll also give the antique a fresh new look to prepare it for it’s next life as the kitchen cabinet in our Skoolie.  I’ll take the camera with me each step of the way so stick around for more stories from our world.  I’m Carmen Shenk reminding you that we can live tiny, embrace simplicity, and still eat really well.

Where are you in your tiny journey?  Looking, building, living?  Have you chosen a floor?  If so, let me know what you chose.  Thanks for following along, I really appreciate it! 29c45-1a2bcarmen