Tiffin (ti.fin), noun. First used in 1785. In India and neighboring eastern countries. A light midday meal; luncheon. Hence Ti.ffin, intransitive verb, to take tiffin, to lunch.
- adapted from The Oxford Universal English Dictionary, 1937
- The new, vastly richer meanings of Tiffin, Maryland 1998.
Year around, under the broiling Indian sun or sloshing through torrential monsoon rains, they trotted through the crowded streets of Bombay at noon, balancing huge baskets filled with gleaming metal canisters on their heads; and as they passed, people turned, to take in the fragrance that suddenly filled the air. And no wonder - what the men were carrying was tiffin, the specially planned, flavorful meals that a loving wife or family cook had prepared for the breadwinners at the office. Three interlocking metal containers, stacked one atop another in a metal frame, kept the food warm and each flavor distinct - main disk, side dish, rice or chappatis, with a tiny packet of pickles and chutneys tucked into a corner. The men who carried the tiffin were called tiffinwallahs. Their arrival was eagerly awaited; at the first clank of metal on tiled floor one's work was carefully set aside; the lunch hour was sacred. Imagine the aromas that wafted through the lunch area as each container was unpacked - cardamom, clove, coriander, and cumin, and on special occasions, that most royal of all spices, saffron. One's mouth began to water.
Here at the Tiffin, not just at lunch but throughout the day, we recreate for you the same delectable dishes the tiffinwallahs carried through Bombay's busy streets, with this difference - they come to you steaming fresh, direct from the tandoors and kadais in our Indian kitchen. And what a difference that makes! Besides, we use the finest ingredients available, and our chefs rate among the masters of Indian cuisine. When, therefore, seated at our table, you prepare to savor the dishes we set before you - come face to face with the rich reds and browns of our meat and fish curries, the luscious dark greens of the vegetables, the royal purple of the aubergines, the heady aromas of our pulaos and biryanis - remember the sacredness of meal time. This is one event that cannot be hurried. You are, after all, burrah sahib, burrah memsahib, the big boss, the guest of honor. We've told you so.