The Trouble With Tiffins

Transporting your lunch while bearded or Asian can be fraught when your container is a lovely Indian tiffin… as Tania O’Donnell discovers.

One of my favourite films is the Indian art house film The Lunchbox. Naturally I did have a childish snigger about the slang meaning of the word, but the film reminded me that I used to have a wonderful old classic tiffin box. I bought it when I was editor of Tandoori magazine and I felt that I should be representing my publication in every manner, including the vessel in which I transported my lunch each day.

I went along to my local Indian hardware shop and picked out a good sturdy example with three compartments (one for curry, one for breads or rice and one for condiments) and was thrilled when the man behind the counter offered to write my name on it for me. Alas it wasn’t the beautiful engraving I had thought it would be; he picked up what looked like a tattoo gun and basically just graffed my name on each of the components of the tiffin in fairly dreadful handwriting. At least he spelt it right (there are no Tanyas here).

So I began to wonder what had happened to my lovely tiffin when a visit to my parents produced it from a back cupboard. I got my mother to fill it with her delicious lamb curry and I brought it home with me on the train. My husband is bearded and I am Asian. You’d be surprised at how nervous people get when they see this combination carrying an unusual vessel. As we stood to leave the train, I thought I’d put people at their ease by joking with Gary that it was unfortunate how much it looks like you’re carrying weapons grade uranium when you have a tiffin. Gary being Gary suggested next time we get some dry ice for the top container to really give it a good effect.

My friend Heathcliffe (yes, that is his real name) then sent me this handy emailed suggestion: ‘If you’re hoping to keep your tiffin warm, you could estimate how long it’ll stay hot for and use a kitchen timer to help keep track of that. I think a timer would help draw attention to it being food rather than something worrisome… for convenience you could tape it to the side of the containers.’  Fantastic.