The Clever Root

Winter / Spring 2016

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 35 of 104

W I N T E R / S P R I N G 2 0 1 6 | 3 5 Techniques for a Long and Healthy Career in the Kitchen In order to have a long and healthy career in the kitchen, it's all about organization or mise en place. According to Arm- strong, you need to: • Make a list of things you need to do. • Arrange your work so that you have a place and the equipment to complete all tasks. • Consider placement of tools for not only when you will use them, but also before and after you will use them. • Next, think about which tools will allow you to cut with accuracy, precision and with minimum effort, so that you don't tire yourself out or develop hand pain or carpal tunnel syndrome. • As you select your equipment, make sure it's clean and ready to use before and after completing the task. In the end, your body will thank you for practicing mise en place and having all your equipment cleaned, sharpened and set out before you even begin cooking, and the ease in which you complete the task will make you all the more happy and healthy in the kitchen. O ur bodies are designed for countless activities, though some technologies aren't designed to complement those activities to be most efficient. Take the kitchen, for example. Kitchens are often not designed with ergo- nomics in mind. Our backs hurt standing on unforgiving floors at the counter and we develop carpal tunnel from chopping at odd angles. According to Dr. Thomas Armstrong, a researcher at the University of Michigan, "To achieve good ergonomics, you have to consider the task goals, the equipment, the materials, the environment and the worker as a system." From mise en place to knife design, Armstrong's team is continually working to improve ergonomics in the kitchen. The Proper Positioning for an Easier Slice What you might not realize is that the knife (or other tool) handle and how you're using it can influence your comfort and efficiency. Armstrong has found that handle position can greatly alter the amount of force needed to move it, thus impacting user fatigue and disorders of the arms and hands like carpal tunnel syndrome. Specifically, for activities using a pull/push motion (i.e. slicing), moving a handle perpendicular to the motion makes it 10% easier. By decreasing the force needed to perform a task, you're better able to feel the mate- rial, so you can follow along a bone or grain to make the most efficient cut. If you hear the knife pounding against the board, you're not using the knife efficiently and you're likely to end up having hand or wrist pain in the future. What's Good for One May Not Be Good for Another Because a certain knife claims to be the best for a task, doesn't mean it's the best for you as an individual. A knife that works well for one might not work nearly as well as for another. Natural variation in the human body is one reason there are so many types of knives or other tools available. Additionally, training plays a role in which knives will work best. According to Arm- strong, "Skilled knife users can do better work with two or three knives than unskilled users can with a set of 12 knives. It's easy, and tempting, to buy that new set of shiny knives with super sharp blades, but it's hard work to develop the skills necessary to use them well." Comfort in the Kitchen: It's the Whole Package Good kitchen ergonomics isn't as easy as just choosing a good knife. In requires analysis of the whole system, including the equipment, the design of the countertops and the task. In other words, you can spend all the money in the world on fancy knives, but if your countertops or cabinets are not fitted to your height, you're going to struggle for comfort. For Armstrong, if he's in someone else's kitchen, he'll place his cutting board higher up on a pan, so he doesn't have to bend over to work. He'll also set up additional pans on both sides where he can discard waste. By preparing the entire workstation for comfort and efficiency, you're less likely to have pain or discomfort. DESIGNING YOUR WORKSPACE AROUND YOU by Becca Yeamans Irwin / illustrations by Diane Henschel ■cr Ergonomics Ergonomics in the Kitchen

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Clever Root - Winter / Spring 2016