Sake + Spirits
What's Cooking Grandma is a site about following around grandmothers and getting them to cook awesome food on camera. Almost better than watching reruns of The Golden Girls.

Watch Jackie throw down some scone. You can tell she's made them a zillion times by the way she sticks her hand in the butter bowl and scoops out a nice fat handful by feel, and also by the fact that she has a bowl of (probably sweet local) butter sitting out in a tub at room temperature. And by the old man hanging around waiting for a fresh batch to come out of the oven. I'd be there too.

Speaking of Grandma's home-cooking, there's a fascinating piece in the Times about dabbawallas in India, basically a lunch delivery service that is like FedEx for grandmothers to get lunches to their hard-working sons.

"In India, where many traditions are being rapidly overturned as a result of globalization, the practice of eating a home-cooked meal for lunch lives on.

To achieve that in this sprawling urban amalgamation of an estimated 25 million people, where long commutes by train and bus are routine, Mumbai residents rely on an intricately organized, labor-intensive operation that puts some automated high-tech systems to shame. It manages to deliver tens of thousands of meals to workplaces all over the city with near-clockwork precision.

[...]The service is at once simple and complex. A network of wallas picks up the boxes from customers’ homes or from people who cook lunches to order, then delivers the meals to a local railway station. The boxes are hand-sorted for delivery to different stations in central Mumbai, and then re-sorted and carried to their destinations. After lunch, the service reverses, and the empty boxes are delivered back home."
I'll trade you my PB&J for your chapatis and dal and lamb vindaloo! God I wish I had an Indian grandmother so I could get in on this!


  • what’s cooking grandma DOES rock!!

    kayoko on

  • totally saw this last summer while i was in Bombay. it’s seriously an entire network worked down to a very fine science, it’s INSANE. from what i understand, it goes something like this: dad leaves the house while mom is still cooking his lunch. wallaman picks up the lunch that is in a little round tin bentobox. wallaman drops off lunch at the train station, and it is taken to it’s destination train station. the lunch is then picked up with a bunch of other lunches and wallaman lines them up on a long skinny wooden box and carries them on his head to dad’s office place.

    THEN, when dad finishes his lunch, he drops it off at his designated lunchbox drop-off, and it is then picked up by the wallaman and it finds its way back home in the same way.

    ok but here’s the craziest part: they do all of this WITHOUT ever putting a name, or address or anything on the box!!!! GENIUS.

    i think i’ve got a picture or video of these guys carrying the lunchboxes and one of the drop off locations. will send it to you.

    kayoko on

  • Went to high school in Bombay and apprenticed in an office for about 6 months. I never availed of the dabbawalla services, but many of my friends did. It is pretty much as Kayoko described. PBS had a full hour long video on them. They featured it as the most amazing 6 sigma company. Yes, their failure rate with this crazy system is what the best of the computerized, mechanized high tech companies would like to achieve when they grow up. Some of the features
    - they run by franchise, each dabbawalla actually buys his spot
    - they have a monthly “encounter” meeting, where any and all problems are resolved (disputes, gripes, process improvements, etc)
    - their quality control is basically making their customer happy with on-time, perfect delivery
    - the markings on the boxes are probably the most sophisticated, not to mention secure, codes in use

    Rice cooker versus pot (from a heckuva job brownie): Put rice in the pot with twice the quantity of water, bring to a boil, lower heat to low and cover. Comes out perfect every time. Why would I waste money on some gadget to do that, eh?

    lakshman on

  • The nyerds are comparing this system to the way packet-routing on the Internet works. Imagine that! I think I’ll use this metaphor for teaching my kids next semester.

    I can’t believe you saw this in action! When I go, I want to make a video following one “bentobox” (nice) from kitchen to train station to work and back.

    Speaking of the melange of food cultures, I was talking to my friend Nandini about rice (she’s Indian). “Indian people don’t use rice cookers. They like making it in a pot,” she said. It’s just as much of a staple as it is in Asian culture, right? Why DON’T Indian people use rice cookers? I speculated that “The yellow people apparently don’t have as much room on their stovetops as the brown people. And like their little electrical gadgets” to which she replied “The brown people like their pots.”

    Any thoughts?

    tmonkey on

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