Ode to My Tiffin

I have looked for one of these things for years! Ever since seeing the movie “Eat, Drink…Man, Woman” where I watched the master chef, who the movie was centered around, pack his little grand-daughter amazing lunches that she carried to school in her tiffin box, I’ve been looking for one. I’ve looked in most places where I imagined they would be with no success. Fortunately, I received a tiffin this Christmas from my sweetheart who had found it at Lee Valley Tools, in Vancouver. I was overjoyed. (to find it search “stacking” on their web site).

Photo submitted by Larry Hill

I have purchased plastic sandwich containers and have often taken things to work for lunch in reused yogurt containers or canning jars but they were always poor substitutes. The only alternatives are plastic bags, saran wrap, wax paper or plastic containers. I’ve always felt guilty when they get thrown out; who knows how many years they lie in the landfill before they decompose. There are biodegradable plastics made from starch (derived from potatoes or corn) which produce polylactide which can be made into bags. Although appealing, the world will need its corn and potatoes to feed people! Wax paper is not a great choice either as the wax is produced from oil too.

Most plastic bags are made of low density polyethylene which uses petroleum in it’s manufacture. I’ve also used “cling wrap” to keep sandwiches and other items from drying out in my lunch bag. Cling wrap is polyvinylidene chloride again a petroleum product. This material often has plasticizers added to make them cling and stick. There is concern that these plasticizers (often DEHA, DBP, or DEHP) can be transferred into the food they cover. Newer cling type wraps are being produced from low density polyethylene with newer, hopefully safer plasticizers added. One wonders.

Which of these two wraps would be better for the environment in a weight sense: a zip-lock bag or an equivalent wrap? I weighed regular Zip Lock sandwich bags and compared the weight to enough cling wrap to enclose a sandwich. A zip lock bag weighs 2.5grams and the equivalent wrap weighs 1.5 grams. The cling wrap is better in a weight sense (40% less petroleum) but then zip lock bags can be washed and reused. This is nearly impossible to do with cling wrap.

This brings us to the tiffin. My version of the Tiffin has four separate compartments and is made of stainless steel. This thing should last for years! I’ve carried just about every kind of food you can imagine in mine: soups, salads, sandwiches, rice, fruit, meats, loafs, nuts and raisins. Every thing is kept very fresh and separate. If you carry soup, just be careful to not lay it over on its side. Although they seal well, liquids may run out.

As James Kunstler says, in these post bank collapse days we need to focus on several key things: living locally, working hard on things that matter and curbing our excessive lifestyle/consumption. It’s a simple thing, but over a lifetime a tiffin could save a tremendous amount!

Photo submitted by Larry Hill

Dr. Larry Hill graduated from UBC Dental School in 1987 and practices in downtown Nanaimo with his partner, Dr. San Mahara. He traveled to Nepal as a volunteer dentist in September 2008.

Published by Dr. Larry Hill

Dr. Larry Hill traveled to Nepal as a volunteer dentist in September 2008.