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Meet The Tiffin

Tiffin

Meet The Tiffin

An early example of tiffin comes from a guide book, Cordiner’s Ceylon, of 1808: “Many persons are in the habit of sitting down to a repast at one o’clock, which is called Tiffen, and is, in fact, an early dinner”.

The word itself translates as lunch, afternoon snack, or any light meal. The word “tiff” was a slang word referred to a measure of diluted liquor and the verb form “tiffing” meant “to take a sip.” It entered the language at the very beginning of the 19th century, perhaps because the English ate the main meal later in the day, requiring a lighter midday meal and a name for it.

More specifically, the tiffin carrier is the lunch box that is used to store and transport food that gives meaning to the whole concept of tiffin.

Who are the “dabbawalas or the tiffin men”?

Many workers live kilometres away from their workplace and commute on the packed local trains in the metro city Mumbai. There is certainly no time to prepare a full meal in the morning when they are busy getting ready to go to the office. The tiffin men pick up the meal around 10 am from their homes, and deliver it to the family member’s office by noon. After lunch, they pick up the container from the same person, and it is delivered back to the individual’s home.

Expertly run by the Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers' Association, armies of these tiffin wallahs provide the valuable daily service of speedily delivering piping hot home-cooked lunches to more than 200,000 busy office workers.

With the essential core values of punctuality, teamwork, honesty and sincerity providing the backbone to the business, they have a staggering 99.99% success rate.

Mumbai streets bustle with the army of dabbawalas who operate the much-lauded unique “meal on wheel” delivery system. Every day, the army of delivery men (or the dabbawalas), pick up homemade food from each worker’s home and deliver roughly a quarter of a million tiffins to office workers across the city. Lunches are cooked at home by workers’ wives and then transported, frequently by train, possibly 20 or 30 miles to their husbands' workplaces. Each three-tiered tiffin-carrier (or Dabba or the lunchbox) passes through several hands through a complicated and efficient cooperative process. Those who deliver the meals by bicycle on the final stage of their journeys are the tiffin-wallahs or dabbawallahs. In this way, the working people of Mumbai eat freshly cooked home lunch every day – despite potentially living in village miles away from their workplace.

The service the tiffin carriers provide is so famous that some workers were invited as honoured guests at the British Royal Wedding. Some international companies have tried to imitate their respectful and successful system.

The top reasons for loving the tiffins are -

  1. Healthy home food - It is a cheap and nutritious alternative that allows practically anyone who is craving a delicious home-cooked meal to have it delivered to their place regularly.
  2. Eco-friendly – The steel tiffin is reusable which makes it a greener alternative to paper, Styrofoam and plastic packaging.
  3. Freshly cooked home food– The food prepared later in the day remains hot and fresh at the time of delivery.
  4. Avoids cross-contamination – Multiple dishes are packed in the tiered lunch boxes, that restricts cross-contamination.
  5. Portable – The structure of the lunchboxes are compact, which can be handled easily.
  6. Multiple courses – One can get starter, entree, sides or salads, all in one container.
  7. No mess, no plates – No additional utensils are needed to eat.
  8. Aesthetics – The boxes come with eye-catching designs, innovative features and are sleek modern-looking carriers.

 

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