For the last 5 years, I've led a life of luxury. No I don't own Cartier jewellery, yachts or a penthouse. I've had a live-in maid who has managed every single aspect of my domestic life.
Well, salad days are coming to an end as Lata ab hamare yahaan kuch hi mahinon ke mehmaan hai. Yup, she will soon leave to get married and start a new life. And a new life it will be for me as well.
Of course we will manage with part time help, a cook and so on and so forth. But one thing that I know I need to manage personally is my daughter's school lunch. Short break and long break - and you know what, I've decided to take it up as a challenge.
I have never been a 'traditional' mother. The kind the Apeejay school textbook in KG class described as 'looks after all of us while father goes to work'. (I kid you not, such a textbook exists and I have preserved it, for the record!)
The closest compliment I have received on cooking from my family is Nivedita writing an essay on 'Meri maa' where she remarks in sentence 5: "My mother makes very good salad". (Note - I do, actually, the kind which you see spread out in salad bars. But you see it's more of imaginative cutting and chopping, mixing and matching, than anything else :)
Actually I can cook but have never needed to or wanted to... but I think inside every woman there is a little voice which yearns to be known as the mom who makes the bestest cupcakes (can still remember the ones made by Geeta and Girija's mother in our colony!).
Refer the opening pages of Allison Pearson's 'I don't know how she does it' for further confirmation on that point.
So. I have decided to take up the Challenge of the Indian School Tiffin Box. This tiffin must be:
a) Tasty: And by this I mean the box should come home wiped clean.
b) Healthy: Fried and bazaar bought stuff won't make the grade.
c) Speedy: I will not spend more than 15 minutes preparing it. Which mom has more time than that?
Ideally, the lunch must look good as well :)
Now you might say we in India already have quite a bit of variety - from parathas to pulao to uttapam, idlis and poha. But here's the problem: Vast number of kids don't find it exciting enough. Remember the ad for Kissan jam where the mom runs after the child with a spoon - a lot of Indian homes see scenes like that!
My theory is that Indians go through a cyclical eating pattern:
a) V early childhood: Daal-chawal-roti-sabzi
b) Early childhood: First discovery of pizzas, burgers and emotional blackmail. Gradual descent into nutritional hell
c) Late childhood and adolescence: Discovery of more forbidden food (and drink), rejection of 'tiffin'.
d) Late teens/ 20s: Hostel and bachelor pad phase. New found respect for simple ghar ka khana.
e) Thirty +: Reverse snobbery, WILL stride into office with 5 storey tiffin box.Eat your hearts out - everyone. Mujhe to bhai aur koi khana suit hi nahin karta.
Anyhow, the long and short of it is that I have decided to put some energy into making exciting school lunches and 'short breaks'. Nawt everyday - but once in a week.
Don't worry, dear readers. I shall create a separate blog to showcase my culinary experiments... And record with honesty how they were received by Nivedita & friends.
Suggestions/ recipes from tiffin-makers (or eaters) welcome. Anyone who can help me figure out the calorie and nutrient value of my experiments - pls get in touch as well! As always, the id is rashmi_b at yahoo.com.
May a thousand Buddhas smile upon my cooking :)