MISE EN PLACE
David and I are on our weekend FaceTime call to our east coast family. Usually when we have our on-screen visits, our granddaughter, Sophie, 4-about-to-be-5-years old, is quite preoccupied at her art table or in her play kitchen. She rarely has time to give us her undivided attention. We take whatever we can get, and so we try to ask conversation-engaging questions like, “What are you making?”
Not too long ago, to our provocative query Sophie replied, “I can’t explain. It’s complicated!” Which leaves us wondering, “Too complicated to be understood by her grandmère and grandpère, or by adults in general?” Sometimes our preschooler doesn’t have much patience for our limited, grownup imaginations!
“Mise en place” is the French term for “setting everything in place”—pots, pans, utensils, ingredients, et cetera. This is the technique used by a skilled chef when placing in order and at-the-ready all that is required to assemble a meal quickly and effortlessly.
Tonight the menu is pasta and sauce and salad and bread. Sophie’s just finished organizing everything they’ll need for their preparations. Spoon in hand, she’s ready to start on the sauce as soon as her “sous chef” mom finishes chopping the tomatoes and onions. We can smell the aromas about to happen all the way down here in Missouri!
Or are those tantalizing scents coming from Josie Mai’s house across the park here in Carthage? If we text Josie and ask “What’s cookin’?” I’m sure we’ll hear she’s in the kitchen with Lance, their three doggies—Gertie, Maya, and Kiowa—underfoot, creating something beautiful to behold and savor. That’s just what Josie does! She cooks…and she knows things…a lot!...about making art of the food she puts together!
Come and see for yourself! Josie’s amazing solo artist exhibition, “EAT ART: Hand-Rubbed Collage”, opens at Hyde House on Friday, April 6, 2018, 6:00-8:00 p.m. Admission is free. Her stunning culinary-inspired creations will remain très “mise en place” just waiting for your visit during weekend gallery hours through May 20: Friday and Saturdays, noon to 5:00 p.m. and Sundays, 1:00-5:00 p.m., or by appointment at (417) 358-4404.
In Josie’s words, “Food is loaded with design components. Color, texture, endless shapes and forms create a composition on a plate or platter. And bonus! This is art we all can eat and share. I am truly obsessed. Maybe for the first time ever. Planning, researching, buying ingredients, laying it all out “mise en place”, prepping ingredients, assembling, tasting, seasoning, cooking, waiting and then eating, usually with a loved one.
EAT ART is comprised of three series. First, collages of “food” on a “plate”. The collage material is from National Geographic magazine. Pieces are hand torn and cut with an x-acto knife. Paper and adhesive are applied with fingertips and palm, resulting in a technique I call hand-rubbed. The colors and textures from all over the globe remind me of travel, adventure and cuisines from around the world.
The second series are prints from my sketchbooks. I take the books when I travel, as well as work on them at home. They are quick, direct and feel less precious in a good way. They catch my thoughts and reflect my process. Most of the images and photos are from Bon Appetit and Food and Wine magazines. You’ll see menus, notes and layers of food and art ideas. I think it’s important to show these sketches and even consider them as finished pieces.
A third series are text drawings: dark, buttery ebony pencil on Bristol board. The quotes are almost gospel, from the mouths of innovative chefs who have quite a following. Like any discipline, when the heroes of the field say something, you write it down and treat it as sacred. Most of these quotes have a direct parallel to visual art, and it’s fun to view food as a legit art form; again, one we get to devour.
The thing that excites me most about food as art is that the possibilities are endless. I know I will never learn everything about every dish, and that even if I make the same recipe ten times it will be different each time, depending on my mood, the season, the ingredients and with whom I share the meal. And heck! We all have to eat. A few times every day. Why not make it art? And make it delicious!”
You’ll agree, when you visit EAT ART—a very fine artistic meal—everything exquisitely “mise en place”!