Banter Bites

TV Dinners – No TV Required!

Enjoying your favorite TV show and your favorite foods at the same time … what could be better?

BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: What could be more basic (and nostalgic for many) than the TV dinner, although who would’ve thought something so simple could generate such different reactions from Red & Black?

As a kid, Red loved TV dinners (and truth be told, she still does, but hates the calorie count), especially because she found it a perfect combination of comfort food (with her favorite being fried chicken), convenience, and everything arranged perfectly,

I remember them having four compartments – a meat, two veggies, and dessert. Usually apple cobbler. But as long as there were mashed potatoes, I was happy.

But what made her even happier? The compartments in the aluminum trays! (It’s hard to believe they were replaced with plastic microwave-safe trays 40 years ago.) As weird as it might sound (and as much grief as Black has given her about this for decades), Red used to have a “thing” about her food touching. Not to mention, she had a habit of eating her food one item at a time. Which made TV dinners ideal for her, and regardless of what they might have been named, Red used to love eating them at any time of day. Or night!

Mention TV dinners to Black, and she’ll agree they’re perfect … as an example of brilliant marketing. She’s fascinated by the fact that frozen meals were not a new idea, but they just had never gained traction, until 1953 when television was a new phenomenon. But the connection was due to Swanson, the frozen food company, greatly overestimating demand for Thanksgiving turkeys that year, and was desperate for ideas,

The story goes that a salesman suggested turning the turkeys into frozen dinners using three-compartment aluminum-foil trays similar to what airlines used for in-flight food service. But, the key was tying the marketing campaign to the new must-have prestige appliance – the television. Even the packaging was cleverly designed to look like mini-TVs, including tuning knobs (you have to be a certain age to remember those).

Black wondered if they had any idea how successful “TV dinners” would become, or that they forever changed how people ate their meals – making it acceptable to eat in front of the TV instead of gathering around the dining room table. Red, on the other hand, had never thought about either of those things, preferring to reminisce about the simple joys of TV dinners.

However, when Red learned there was a National TV Dinner Day, she decided the best way to celebrate would be to stroll through her favorite grocery store’s frozen food section and buy at least one … for old time’s sake. And whether it became dinner, lunch, or a just a snack, she’d savor the mashed potatoes and enjoy it … in front of the TV.

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