The TV Dinner An American Icon
What could be more American than sitting in front of the flickering television set with the warm glow back-lit against the wall from the walnut incased picture tube? Then sitting with a clanky metal TV tray in front of you, and sitting on top of that tray was the familiar tinfoil pressed 4 sectioned time saver… the TV dinner!
For Americans of the 1950’s and 1960’s generation the very words “TV dinners” conjour up memory flash-backs in that secret part of the brain that quietly call out for a simpler time. A time when freezers and televisions were becoming more common place; and frozen compartmentalized foil pressed trays of food felt like something straight out of Buck Rogers. The very words TV dinner have not been used to describe a frozen dinner in decades, but stamped somewhere onto the hearts and minds of Americans everywhere, is the impression of a silver tray with frozen in the middle still mashed potatoes, ice-cold in the center fried chicken, and some burnt around the edges, yet still doughy in the middle brownie-type thingy.
Whether you liked them, loved them, or even if you rarely ate them… you still remember them. The company.. er, culprit C.A. Swanson & Sons (not related to our own C.A.) used “TV Dinner” as a brand name for just about ten years after they introduced the frozen dinners in 1953. Much like how we use “kleenex” to describe facial tissues today, the same can be said for the the descriptive term used for all brands of frozen meals today. I still notice people picking up a frozen brand meal and calling it a TV dinner, the title as stuck.
For those of you at home, who are still unsure what I am waxing nostalgic about ..”a TV Dinner is a manufactured meal purchased frozen from a food market and designed to be heated up at home in a “no fuss no mess no work” context. The original TV Dinners were sold in aluminum trays with separate compartments for a meat, a starch and a vegetable: fried chicken with mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables, for example, or the original turkey (on a bed of stuffing) with peas and potatoes. Later TV Dinners added a fourth compartment for a small desert item or cake.” …and there you have it.
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