Unpacking the tiffin box

In her latest release, Tasty Tiffin, author and food activist Archana Doshi offers simple solutions for a well-balanced lunch box for kids.
Food activist, entrepreneur, and founder of Archana’s Kitchen, Archana Doshi, with her latest book 'Tasty Tiffin'
Food activist, entrepreneur, and founder of Archana’s Kitchen, Archana Doshi, with her latest book 'Tasty Tiffin'

When we think of our school-going days, our core memories are invariably linked to the eager anticipation of lunch breaks, the joys of commensality, and the routine of opening everyone’s tiffin boxes to see who has brought what. However, it’s not always easy preparing tiffin that pleases all; while health-conscious parents pack nutritious vegetables or fruits, a child might want something more attractive, or they might crave ‘junk’ food.

A satisfactory blend of this need for nutrition as well as a playful and attractive element that will excite children is precisely what Tasty Tiffin, the latest book by food activist, entrepreneur, and founder of Archana’s Kitchen, Archana Doshi, offers. Deeply passionate about sharing the fundamentals of home cooking, Archana is a strong advocate for the nutritional values of simple Indian meals.

The book delves into these topics and is addressed to parents who look to keep their children not only well-fed, but also happy. Regarding the inspiration behind her book, Archana says, “It stemmed from a personal journey of navigating the challenges of providing nutritious and appealing school lunches for my children. As a parent, I recognised the need for a comprehensive resource that not only offered practical solutions but also celebrated the joy of cooking and eating together as a family.”

Curating recipes

This book is a rich source of over 40 recipes and is effective in the simple presentation of lunch plans. Speaking on the process of compiling these recipes, Archana shares, “Curating the recipes for Tasty Tiffin was a labour of love that drew upon a myriad of influences, including my own childhood memories of school lunch boxes. I vividly recall the excitement of opening my tiffin to discover what delicious freshly packed food that my mum cooked for me, and those fond experiences served as a guiding light throughout the recipe development process. The process of writing Tasty Tiffin spanned several months, from initial concept development to final manuscript submission, and the dedication and love that was poured into every page was unwavering, resulting in a meticulously crafted resource that I’m immensely proud to share with readers.”

Archana’s book was written considering family food habits, and she insists that it is appealing to all parents. “The decision to publish Tasty Tiffin at this moment was driven by a desire to empower parents with a diverse array of delicious and healthy lunch box ideas, especially amid growing concerns about childhood nutrition and the prevalence of processed foods. In today’s fast-paced world, parents are constantly seeking practical solutions to the age-old challenge of preparing nutritious and enticing meals for their children,” she says, adding, “Tasty Tiffin offers a timely and indispensable resource that addresses this need head-on with creative lunch box ideas that cater to modern tastes and lifestyles.” As she wrote the book with busy parents in mind, her recipes are complete with simple instructions, accessible ingredients, time-saving tips, and make-ahead options. “Each recipe is crafted to be approachable and achievable, even for those with limited time or culinary experience,” she notes.

Archana also understands that preparing the perfect lunch box does not always have to involve trendy practices. She says, “It is not about being crafty and cutting things in various arts as such type of cooking and packing is not sustainable. Instead, it is about choosing the right bento box which has compartments and providing various colourful options in those sections. The presentation of food plays a crucial role in packinglunch boxes, however, that should not be a single factor in planning them.”

With such practical tips and guidelines, Archana’s book focuses on efficient food arrangement and the introduction of new flavours and colours in meals, rather than time-consuming or unnecessarily artistic lunch plans. This practicality extends to the ingredients specified in every recipe too. Archana states, “One of the guiding principles behind Tasty Tiffin was to make the recipes as accessible and aproachable as possible, using ingredients that are commonly found in most home kitchens. By focusing on pantry staples and everyday essentials, I aimed to eliminate the need for special trips to the grocery store and ensure that parents can easily whip up delicious and nutritious meals with what they already have on hand.”

Nutrition in focus

Two other criteria that Tasty Tiffin endeavours to fulfil are those of suitability for children and nutrition. Archana asserts, “First and foremost, every recipe had to be kid-friendly, with flavours and textures that appeal to young palates. Additionally, each dish had to be

nutritionally balanced, incorporating a variety of food groups and essential nutrients to support children’s growth and development. ”

When asked about her opinion on the fundamentals of an optimal tiffin, she mentions the importance of balance. “There must be a harmonious balance between taste, nutrition, and practicality. A successful tiffin should feature a variety of textures, flavours, and food groups to keep kids engaged and satisfied throughout the day. I always believe in multiple small portions and adding variety, especially when they are younger.” She furthermore notes the prioritisation of hassle-free preparation, packing, and transport of the same.

Listing her personal favourites from her book of recipes, the mother of two reflects, “As a parent, it’s challenging to pick favourites among the delectable recipes featured in Tasty Tiffin, but a few standout dishes have undoubtedly become beloved staples in our household. The cheesy spinach and corn quesadillas and the mini vegetable idlis, served with a side of tangy chutney, are always loved. However, perhaps the ultimate crowd-pleaser is the peanut butter and banana sandwiches, a playful yet nutritious snack that never fails to delight young taste buds.”

Packed with captivating photographs, easy-to-follow steps, and a multitude of recipes that effortlessly combine different food preferences, Archana has formulated an all-in-one guide to happy and healthy children, as well as satisfied parents.

Tasty Tiffin’ is available to order on Amazon. For more appetising recipes, tutorials, and resources for meal plans, visit Archana’s website at www.archanaskitchen.com. Connect with her on all social media platforms at Archana’s Kitchen.

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The New Indian Express