I admit I was skeptical of My Tiffin Express, the Plainsboro-based service that purports to mimic the beloved Indian tradition of packed lunches delivered in metal boxes (tiffins). While it’s not quite that — for one thing, my meal came in a standard-issue black plastic microwave container with a clear lid — it just may be the next best thing.
Here’s how it works: Six days a week one meal is offered as half tiffin ($4.99) or full tiffin ($7.99). You order online and specify from which of six area Indian grocery stores you’ll pick it up at 6:30 p.m. that evening (for orders placed by 12:30 p.m.) Each day one and only one vegetarian meal is offered, consisting of three whole-wheat rotis (chapati), one vegetable and one dal that vary daily, and one serving of rice. (A full tiffin will include six ounces of each of the last three.)
The My Tiffin Express folks claim to source most ingredients locally, prepare food fresh daily, and believe that “outside” food can be healthy and affordable. Based on my anonymous test, I can attest that their meals seem fresh — even homestyle and less oily than restaurant fare — and that their “medium” spice level is just right, at least for me.
Here’s how it works: You order and pay online (they accept credit cards and PayPal) and pick it up that evening at your preferred Indian grocery in East Windsor, Plainsboro, West Windsor, North Brunswick, or Lawrenceville. Since the meals don’t arrive much before 6:30, they may still be warm. I enjoyed mine, which featured cauliflower and bell peppers in curried tomato sauce. www.mytiffinexpress.com.
Recommended: Comedy Central on food history
So this is something I never thought I’d do: urge everyone I know to watch a show called “Drunk History.” The series debuted on Comedy Central in 2013, but I was just turned on to it recently. If you haven’t seen it, both the concept and the appeal may seem hard to fathom. Host Derek Waters, who is also co-creator, sits down with a famous guest and they slowly get drunk together while the guest narrates his or her understanding of famous, or sometimes obscure but fascinating, historical events — say, the Hamilton-Burr relationship and duel as described by a cheery, drunken Lin-Manuel Miranda.
The story is simultaneously acted out on screen, often with famous actors who lip-synch the drunken narration. My favorite episode, predictably enough, centers on food (season 4, episode 9). Segments cover Julia Child’s biography before she became famous and two real historical events.
One involves Mayor Fiorello La Guardia’s outsmarting the mob in what is called the Artichoke Wars; the other details how corporate corruption led to Boston’s Great Flood of Molasses, which killed 21 and injured 150 in 1919. Clearly, if salty language and the act of over-imbibing offend you, you’ll want to skip “Drunk History.” But if not, the full “Food” episode (and others) are online.
For foodies who need a late Christmas gift
Why not start off the year by upping your dried pasta game in a big way? I learned about Pastificio dei Campi from Katie Parla, an expert on all thing Rome who grew up in West Windsor. She is also the author of “Tasting Rome: Fresh Flavors and Forgotten Recipes from an Ancient City,” which made just about every list of Best Cookbooks of 2016, including those of Food & Wine and Lucky Peach.
“I’m a big believer in investing in good pasta,” she told me during an interview for a forthcoming feature in Edible Jersey. “The pasta I buy in Rome costs, like, five euros a pack, which translates to about 10 times what people there pay,” she says. “But I believe you really can tell the difference in texture, structure, and flavor. It cooks differently. And theoretically, you’re supporting someone who is growing grain in the civilized way, unlike a big agricultural company.”
That’s why Pastificio dei Campi is among her favorites. “It’s made in Gragnano which is this historic place where dried pasta was basically invented,” she says. “The village is in a strange, horseshoe-like valley between two hills so it has this wind that circulates through the valley and was traditionally used to slowly dry pasta.”
In the U.S., Pasta dei Campi is sold on the internet at several high-end international grocery sites and at Amazon, where it typically goes for $12 or $13 for 17.6 ounces. “Giuseppe di Martino’s family at Pastificio del Campi takes pasta making from large-scale production to something a lot smaller, so it’s expensive,” Parla admits. “But it’s really, really good!”
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