(NSFW: Language Warning)
“In the weeds” is a term that is used in kitchens. According to Urban Dictionary it is “when someone or something, usually in the food or beverage industry, becomes overwhelmed and falls behind.” It is frequently the result of unpreparedness. It is not east to get out of the weeds because tasks and information are coming into the system faster than your ability to deal with them. In his interview with eGullet, Michael Ruhlman describes his experience as “…one of the worst feelings in the world.”
The French term is more evocative. Dans le merde or, “in the shit.” Dans le merde up to your knees or dans le merde up to your eyeballs, it’s not good and it’s only going to get deeper and thicker before it gets better. You will eventually work your way out. Eventually.
A well-stocked mise en place (another French term which means “chopping up your food and putting it into as many tiny bowls as you have in your kitchen”) can help steer you away from the weeds. Like the weeds, mise en place is a mindset. Planning ahead and making preparations goes a long way. However sometimes it only delays the inevitable because outside forces will overwhelm you and your comrades will be hip deep themselves. In the weeds, dans le merde, there is significant interference in organization, prioritization, and communication.
The weeds is not an objective place and is not limited to the kitchen. While there may not be as much of a physical aspect, circumstances can still completely overwhelm your preparations. Tunnel vision is setting in and you can’t see anything but what is in front of you and that’s bad because the rate that you’re completing tasks is nowhere equal to the rate people are piling it up on you. People are spraying bullshit all around you like they’re goddam manure spreaders. You’re weeded. Deep dans le merde.
You go silent because your head is roaring with everything you need to do slamming around inside. Even getting it straight enough to ask for help just puts you further dans le merde. Around you people are asking when you’ll be done and shouting how you missed deadline and the only answer is “It will be ready when it is fucking ready!” and you barely had time to bark that out. Now you’re heads-down at your tasks again trying to run over what still needs to be done but the only words you hear are “shitshitshitshitmerdeshitshit.”
The mise is empty and you’ve got nothing left to give and you want to run away because it’s all so awful and feels like it will never let up but you keep on fighting, fighting, fighting because you have to and the weeds are the fucking everglades and nothing is where it’s supposed to be and people just keep dumping more merde into the situation faster than you can bail it and everyone can see how bad you are fucking up and you send up a flare so that maybe someone can find you in the weeds you are so damn lost in because fuck shit shit merdeshitshitshitshitfuckshitshit.