Thursday, June 11, 2009

Quick Gun Tiffin Mum

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

May a thousand Buddhas smile upon my cooking :)


  1. :-) Though a father of one and 1/2 yer old daughter ,I emphatize with you .

    I stay in Japan and appreciate how beautiful Bento boxes looks (and tastes too ).

    We had a support for almost last one year from in-laws ,parents and now we are on our own , I started helping in cooking and realized that it really doesn't require more than 1/2 an hour .( 15 minutes too aggressive target ) . I think you can make healthy food in that much period.

    For 15 minutes you can probably will have to switch back to salads/fruits and kind of stuff - where you need to cut and arrange only ..

    My humble opinion.

  2. hehe. someone is trying to be a traditional mother - how nice :)

    btw, i must urge all readers of this blog to have a dinner party at Rashmi's house where she shall showcase her culinary skill - what say? Haan ham critique offer karke aapke skill ko sudharna chahte hain taaki Nivedita gets the best possible food for her short break and long break and what not :P

    I lived the very early childhood, and actually skipped the early and late one. Luckily by the time late teen one started, I actually started NOT liking my mother's homemade food. Yea yea, aisa bhi hota hai. She says that college spoilt me and it actually did. You never know - Nivedita might like the Gobhi parathas and Maggi and who knows - even Puri bhaji or Pav-bhaji too ;-)
    Let her have what she likes - don't really go behind calories now because children I believe stay fit when they're this young :)

  3. "d) Late teens/ 20s: Hostel and bachelor pad phase. New found respect for simple ghar ka khana."

    Yes yes! College mess sucks. "New found" respect for mom's cooking :D

  4. French toasts used to be my favorite when i was a kid.
    Fried it is, but it's tasty, and it's quick to make and it's not empty calories!

  5. ROFL..on the Indian food eating true!!

  6. Hmm, in the cold hard light of day this sounds delusional. It's hard enough to wake up and stuff *anything* into a dabba before 8 o clock in the morning. But then I guess I am trying to trick myself into making that seem like a bit of fun. Will try for 4 weeks to begin with :)

  7. Very interesting.. :)

    Wish you all the best and eagerly waiting for those 15 minute breakfast recipes as they would be very helpful to lazy bachelors like us who want to eat healthy breakfast but are too lazy to spend time preparing it.

  8. May be I am strange, or the odd person [or even unrelated post.. apologies!].

    Why are you trying now - just because the maid has left? May be you did not foresee it coming?

    Believe the right way is to plan for what is coming, rather than trying adhoc solutions.

    That said, some of quickest ones to do are -

    Rice items - vegetable rice, paneer rice, lemon rice, etc. Be sure to add lot of green leaves to make it colorful. Even the humble curd rice can be decorated by adding coriander/curry leaves jeera and channa dhal [all fried to gether].

    Idly can be made tasty by adding vegetables, jeera & small roundly cut chillies to the dough before cooking.[Vegetable idly!]

    Noodles are not nutrionist hell - when added good vegetables, such as carrots, peas etc.,.

    Optionally chappatis of previous day can be reused to prepare spring rolls.

  9. Anonymous4:56 PM


    very nice post... enjoyed it very much.

    Thank you"

    good site


  10. Anonymous4:24 PM

    damn, being a guy who wakes up at 3 pm, your plan sounds like hell :-)

    good luck !

    nice blog, by the way (but rather confusing when it comes to tagging it under google reader !)

  11. is there some reason the dabba has to be made in the morning ? my sister is a school teacher, leaves home at 6.40 and her hubby a little later found they werent compromising on anything other than a notion when they started making the dabba the previous day. Its kept in the fridge - the dry item - short break sandwich does not spoil and the long break lunch is either some dinner item of the previous night or that morning's breakfast. so she or he make just 1 thing before trotting off to work, kids have the choice of what goes into the dabba and simply take it out of the fridge and trots off. will this work for you ? i dont know but it was worth writing i think :-)

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