A laurel to the lunchbox

Prince Charles, it is said, was so impressed by the ‘dabbawallas’ of Mumbai during his visit that he invited their representatives over to his place.

Of course, the way they deliver lakhs of dabbas (lunchboxes) day in and day out traversing the length and breadth of the mega city to the right owner during lunch time and returning it to the right door steps in the evenings is a stupendous task. Yet, it is those silent hands toiling behind these boxes that I salute.

For, packing a perfect dabba is never an easy task. Being a unique chapter in culinary science, it is a challenge even for the best cook. Its outcome depends not only on the culinary prowess of the cook but a host of other factors to get things just right inside the dabba. Besides being a good cook, she should be conversant with the rudiments of physics, chemistry and even meteorology. The heat from the container could make chapattis in the next container soggy, summers could turn delicious curd rice sour while winters could leave it unfermented.
Menus for the lunch boxes have to be planned in advance keeping in mind consistency and (packability).

The nuance of a fresh and hot lunch box is never a stale topic when ladies meet. Following are a few of the interesting episodes and views that I picked up along with relevant recipes and hints during such sessions. For one lady, the lunch carrier is a show piece of the family’s honour and pride. That in turn depends on the number and quality of items packed because the lunchbox is under ‘public’ scrutiny when it is shared with friends. Another narrated how she once filled only the lower most container of her husband’s lunchbox with food, leaving the others empty on an All Fools Day.
The lunch box gives a peek into the morning kitchen. Once back from his KG class, my son whispered: “Rajaram brought Bournvita on his bread today”. Rajaram, his classmate, had working parents and his grandmother might have run out of jam that day.
If good food is the best way to a heart, lunchboxes are delectable ways towards national integration. Look at the Murthy family feasting on mooli parathas during lunch breaks and how the Khannas have learnt to prepare and enjoy hulianna and bisibelebath for their lunchboxes.

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