Friday, September 12, 2008

Tiffin Carrier:
The Beginning:
In Indian context, the concept/idea of transporting/storing food dates back to the mythology of Mahabharat.
Lord Krishna used to steal butter from stacked pots hanging from the ceiling. During olden times, long ago when there was no use of metal vessels, mud pots were extensively used to prepare, store as well as transport food. Starting from bigger size, the next smaller sized pots are filled with food and stacked in size order.

For this purpose, coconut fibre is woven into a thick and firm ring of sorts, and a tight rope passes through 3 equidistant points in the ring, to form a cone when lifted. Now the pots, whose rims are covered securely by cloth, are stacked over the ring in size order. This whole thing can now be lifted by the rope over long distances.

Generally Indian women used to conveniently carry the stacked pots on their heads using the ring. In additional to that, storing food in mud pots is desirable due to their properties, especially water and other liquids.

So the whole process of stacking up food in containers is inspired from this. This tells us that the highly useful Tiffin carriers we use everyday have their root connections to a period since myth began.
Traditional Indian Kitchens:
Cooking vessels were not so sophisticated many years ago in India; though the food that came out of those traditional kitchens was as delicious, aromatic and flavourful, or maybe more.

Traditional kitchens had a distinctive but simple range of kitchenware. Still the number of spices and condiments stored in such a kitchen needs a veteran cook to expertise on. Many of these utensils are still an integral part of Indian kitchens. One of them is the Tiffin carrier.
Origin and evolution:
A basic tiffin Carrier consists of several metal containers stacked one on top of another, used to carry prepared food.
The above tiffin carrier is made of stainless steel, but the ancient carriers were made of brass or aluminium. Even now, aluminium carriers are being used. Stainless steel is advantageous over aluminium because of the fact that steel can retain the heat of the food for a longer time (say 2-3 hours) than aluminium (say 2 hours).

Every container of the tiffin carrier except the bottom one consists of a rim a little above the bottom of the container to firmly fit into the next one. The top container of the carrier has the lid.

Initially, the lock system of the carrier was such that from the bottommost container, 2 thin vertical bars arise from the opposite sides. These bars run parallel to the carrier upwards. At the lid, they bend towards each other to form a handle. Both the bars have holes at the handle through which a metal spoon is fitted, in order to make the bars stay in position to be able to carry.

Now, the clip system has arrived in the market which has made opening/closing/transporting of the carrier easier. An image of such a carrier in shown below:

Today the conventional tiffin carrier has undergone a lot of changes. The latest carriers have a lid for every container in it, and come in different shapes such as cylindrical, conical, pyramidal, cuboids, oval, etc.

Range of Tiffin Carriers:
‘Tiffin’ Carriers are a fantastic eco friendly alternative to plastic lunchboxes and other unsustainable single use, disposable containers, made from food grade stainless steel. Clever yet simplistic, the carrier is a set of separate stacked compartments and snapped in place with a convenient carry handle.
‘Tiffin’ Carriers are ideal for carrying several kinds of food in one easy container. Each compartment can be filled with hot or cold food, with a clever design keeping food separated, avoiding any nasty surprises. Each compartment also comes with its own lid/plate, making it the ideal entertaining partner.

Depending upon the number of containers, the quality and company of the stainless steel and the lock system, etc. the tiffin carriers are priced. Generally the carriers come in 3, 4 or 5 containers in stainless steel.

A very conventional stainless steel tiffin carrier of 4 containers would cost around INR 175-250/- Such carriers are mass produced and sold to the wholesalers who in turn sell them to the retailers.

Tiffin carriers come in all sizes- from 2” to 5” in height per container, and from 4” to 8” in diameter.
A traditional Indian carrier consists of 5 huge containers, with a small cup in the top one for pickle. The base container (biggest)
Is generally filled with boiled rice, and then comes rotis, curry/curries, vegetable(s), followed by a traditional sweet and pickle, all in proper quantities. “YUMMY!!!” The very sight of a heavy tiffin carrier reminds you of delicious food.

Hot Packs/Hot Bags:
In additional to the tiffin carrier, in order to keep the temperature and freshness of the food intact for a quite longer time, hot bags/hot packs are used.
A hot bag consists of insulated rexin cloth from the inside, which is stitched to a tough material outside with a long wrap handle for convenience. A hot bag keeps the food warm enough for at least 5 hours. Whereas a hot pack is an insulated plastic vessel with a lid, and it keeps the food warm for a greater time.
Indian Companies like Arihant enterprises (Chennai), Milton, Stylo, Big Boss and Swanmac manufacture high quality tiffin carriers with hot bags at reasonable prices.
Swanmac/Lunchmate is India’s first Stainless steel vacuumised tiffin carrier. Made with the highest grade of stainless steel- AISI 304 (Salem Stainless Steel), Lunchmate is hygienic and very durable. It is vacuum insulated.
· Avoid storing hot and cold food items together.
· Remove the inner containers and store ice cubes in the outer case.
· Boil milk. Allow it to warm. Add little curd. Transfer into Lunchmate and fix the lid as usual. Curd sets faster in Lunchmate.
· Lunchmate should be cleaned with warm soap water. No other precautions are necessary. When not in use, keep the lid open.
· Sizes: 2,3,4,5 containers.

Tiffin carriers are not only used in India, but nowadays they have become an integral part of a kitchen all over the world. Carriers are exported from India to other countries. Tiffin carriers are also manufactured abroad in a variety of designs and materials: Remmerco tiffin carrier (England) made of white gastronom melamine priced at INR 800/-
Cinnamon tiffin carriers (Melbourne) made of stainless steel priced at INR 1700/-

The Dabbawallas:
Tuesday, May 8th, 2007
The Financial Times reports on Mumbai’s dabbawallas, “an army of [5,000] men who deliver with faultless precision 200,000 meals to workers in the city direct from their homes in the suburbs using nothing but the city’s battered commuter railway system and bicycles.” (J. Leahy, “High-tech meets low-tech over lunch,” 8 May 2008.)
To fully appreciate the Dabbawallas’ achievements, a person first needs to see the rickety state of Mumbai’s infrastructure. A trip to the airport that should take 30 minutes can take two hours due to chronic congestion.
The trains are so overcrowded that people are frequently killed falling off the roofs of the carriages or being hit by poles alongside the tracks as they hang out of the doors. Monsoon rains regularly bring the city to a halt.
Yet none of this faces the dabbawallas. Daily, from about 9am, each dabbawalla collects a tiffin carrier – a tall, cylindrical, stacking metal food container loaded with different dishes – from 35 customers’ homes in the suburbs.
The colour-coded tiffin carriers are put in the luggage compartments of suburban trains and taken to the city, where the correct tiffin carriers are delivered to the correct individual customers starting at about 12.30pm, in time for lunch. From 1.15pm, the dabbawallas begin collecting the tiffin carriers again to deliver them back to individual customers’ homes, in a reversal of the whole process.
Like any successful corporation, the dabbawallas have a firmly entrenched culture and well-developed sense of mission and branding.
Founded in 1890, they claim to be descendants of the soldiers of Shivaji, the 17th century king who held off the Muslims in the area that is now the western state of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the modern capital.
Most of them are shareholders of the [Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Charity] trust, drawing a monthly salary of about Rs5,000.
“People recognize us by our Gandhi topi [hat] and our white kurta pyjama, which is our biggest brand,” says Mr Medge.*
While their average education is eighth grade, and many are illiterate, the dabbawallas have been given a Six Sigma performance rating of 99.999999 by consultants and a quality management system standard ISO 9001:2000 certificate. They claim to have an error rate of 1 in 16m.
*Mr. Raghunath D. Medge is president of the Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Charity Trust.

Today, speaking of tiffin carriers only makes everyone’s mouth water. Starting from school children, working people, picnickers, tourists, travellers and everyone else use tiffin carriers (dabba) in day to day life. It is such a product which has, is and will remain in production and use forever…

Recipe of death inside tiffin box:

Ahmedabad, July 26 Blast inside AMTS bus claims one life, leaves eight critically injured
A powerful tiffin blast that ripped apart the roof and floor of a CNG bus belonging to the Ahmedabad Municipal Transport Services (AMTS) claimed the life of one person and injured eight others. The blast occurred when the vehicle was passing through the sensitive Juhapura area opposite Amber Tower around 6.30 p m, the same time when serial blasts spread panic across the city.
It’s just sad news that apart from its innocent significant use, a tiffin carrier is also used to plant bombs at public places. A bomber would choose a tiffin carrier for such a purpose since it is the least doubted spot for a bomb. Well, a person would never see a tiffin carrier in that way. Moreover it is big enough to fit in a powerful bomb. Really SAD?!


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