tiffins and hummus

My household has never found much use for ziploc bags, so when I have to carry lunch with me, it often looks like this:

Which reminds me of the thousands of tiffins delivered daily by the dabbawallas of Mumbai. The dabbawallas gather up homemade lunches in the mornings and deliver them, still hot, to office workers by lunchtime. The system is complex, with 175,000 tiffins changing hands through multiple depots each day, yet delightfully low-tech. Most deliveries are made by bicycle, and there are no computers, or even written words, involved. The tiffins are routed using symbols drawn on their lids to indicate their destinations. The system is also very effective: most online sources say that only one in 16 million deliveries goes astray. Very important in a society where food taboos matter–and proliferate.

If you don’t live in India but would like a tiffin that is more elegant, or more permanent, than mine, you can get one from To-Go Ware. I didn’t know this until I picked up a stainless steel container called a “sidekick” to put John-Paul’s shaving soap in:

But I figure the plastic (and bioplastic) containers are already cluttering up my kitchen cabinets, and I don’t see them going away any time soon, so I may as well use what I’ve got. Mine don’t snap together, but putting the stack inside a bag works just as well.

And what, you may wonder, did I use the contents of my tiffin for? You’ll note that those vegetables and those pickled jalapeños look ripe to accompany hummus, but there’s no hummus in the photo. That morning I tried to make hummus using chickpea flour. My main mistake seems to have been putting the garlic, tahini, and lemon juice through the food processor before I added the chickpea flour. The food processor created an emulsion that was too thick to absorb much flour. I ended up with a chalky brick that still tasted mostly of tahini. I still have hope for a gentler method–next time I’ll mince the garlic by hand and stir everything together with a spoon instead. For that particular lunch, though, I ended up buying hummus from Bi Rite, along with some tortilla chips, which are my favorite tool for scooping it up.

The jalapeños add a little spice. Sometimes we’ll spoon a bit of Sriracha chili-garlic paste on top instead, but we were out of it that morning. (The hot sauce in the picture is from a nearby taquería.)

1 Response to “tiffins and hummus”

  1. May 4, 2010 at 11:21

    John-Paul just asked me why the discrepancy between “tiffin” and “dabba,” and I didn’t know. It turns out that although To-Go Ware calls their containers tiffins, tiffin actually means a light meal, and dabba is the term for the container. Hence dabbawalla, or “the guy with the box.”

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