Growing up in Iowa, I primarily ate homecooked meals made with local, somewhat sustainable sometimes farm-to-table ingredients. In fact, I didn’t know macaroni and cheese came in a box. My mom fed me and my siblings canned vegetables during the winter when fresh produce was hard to come by, but all cookies and cakes started with raw ingredients — never a box mix.
So it’s a bit of a non sequitur that, from time to time, we enjoyed TV dinners. We were allowed only kosher foods at home, yet when my parents left for their date night we were occasionally fed prepackaged, frozen meals – served on paper plates with disposable cutlery, of course. Two or three times a year, we’d line up downstairs (no non-kosher foods in the kitchen heaven forbid!) and dig into turkey with mashed potatoes or meatloaf with green beans and congealed apple crisp…and we loved it! I think the allure was based more on the rarity of the occasion than the actual taste though…
This was my mom’s version of fast food – and these meals could be purchased from the frozen foods section and kept in our upright freezer, then reheated when the need arose. Today they are not called “TV” dinners. Remember, back in the 1950’s there weren’t carry out foods or prepared foods for purchase. If I recall correctly, McDonalds only arrived in Sioux City, Iowa sometime in the late 1950’s.
Fast forward many many years to this past winter. It was a Sunday night and my husband announced that he wanted to be in charge of dinner That was music to my ears, and off to the supermarket he drove.
And this is what appeared on my marble countertop — Frozen TV Dinners. Four aluminum trays. He bought the “Hungry Man” or extra large size so we could taste it all.
Full disclosure: this is not my idea of a tasty, nutritious meal! Yet I am always pleased when someone else in my family makes dinner from start to finish and I view it as a cooking vacation of sorts for me!
The “TV” dinners looked a lot like how I remembered. And the taste? Let’s just say it wasn’t my finest meal. Salty and bland and monotone, but it sufficed and there was no time needed for food preparation or kitchen clean up. I don’t think we’ll be doing this anytime soon. But it’s the thought that counts!