In Praise of the Tiffin

With all of the options for packing your leftovers these days, it’s easy to get lost in a mountain of plastic. And as recent reports suggest, much of this plastic leaches into your food, which can be cancer-causing. But then I discovered something, while out for dinner with a friend at an Indian restaurant. Ladies and gents: the tiffin.

I’d seen them before, but I’d never considered how awesome a tiffin could be, so I bought one and I am hooked. I also looked a little deeper into how this great, sustainable option came to be.

The tiffin is actually a product of British India, and the word itself used to mean a light lunch or midday snack (in British slang, a “tiff” is a little bit to eat; think nibble). The tiffin came about when the British tradition of teatime was superseded by the Indian midday snack, often taken outdoors or while traveling. As this was a time before widespread plastic use, the carriers in which these light meals were presented were often made of metal or even wood, fitted together in a clever fashion to save space and keep food upright and warm. Hence: the tiffin carrier, or tiffin, which still resides in many Indian food restaurants to this day.

My tiffin set, purchased online, has saved my food and my lunch numerous times already, and it’s much more fashionable than a brown bag or Tupperware. There’s a lovely retro feel to most you can buy (like this one from Modcloth, for example, which is made of melamine but is still pretty cool; or this more traditional, and cheaper, one), and they’re very easy to wash. Also, because they’re made of metal, they don’t stain or retain smells like plastic does. It’s seriously one of the best investments I ever made, and it’s saving me money because I’m more likely to think, “I’ll make extra dinner because I can bring the leftovers in my awesome tiffin.” Get yours today! Viva la tiffin!

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