10 Breakthroughs in TV Dinners


1
Gourmet and Ethnic Cuisine
Did the makers of the original turkey "TV Dinner" ever imagine they were establishing precedent for a future of instant, fragrant curry dishes from the microwave? Stockbyte/Getty Images

By the 1980s, Americans were no longer merely content with TV dinners that could be reheated and eaten quickly. Increasingly, they hankered for ready meals that actually tasted good as well. Producers responded with what they called "premium frozen meals," which were designed to offer more flavorful fare, from brands such as Banquet Foods' Light and Elegant, Stouffer's Lean Cuisine and others. Restaurant chains as diverse as P.F. Chang's and Boston Market offer some of their entrees as frozen foods. By 2009, U.S. consumers were buying nearly $900 million worth of such "premium" frozen meals annually, according to one market study [source: Marketresearch.com]. And a third of that was for ethnic cuisines, like Thai and Indian [source: Marder].

The trend toward better-tasting, more interesting TV dinners encompasses more than just using different ingredients. New freezing and reheating processes aim to protect the spicy and/or delicate taste of ethnic cuisines. Vijay Vij, a Canada-based maker of frozen Indian dinners, for example, recommends reheating them in a saucepan full of water. Another outfit, Virginia-based Cuisine Solutions, markets gourmet frozen foods that are created in -- and intended to be reheated in -- a special temperature-controlled water bath, a process called sous vide. Interestingly, it takes about 30 minutes to heat food that way -- circling back to the original cooking time of the TV dinner [source: Ashford].

Author's Note: 10 Breakthroughs in TV Dinners

My father was a butcher and owned a corner grocery store, so when I was growing up, I seldom ate anything but freshly-cooked beef, chicken and fish that my mom made. That shaped my tastes, and I have to confess that I've never really even had a desire to try a TV dinner. I adopted a mostly vegetarian diet some years ago and still pretty much stick to it, so it's unlikely that I'll dig into a Hungry Man dinner anytime soon. I have started to buy them at the supermarket, though, because my meat-loving teenage son enjoys them.

Related Articles

Sources

  • Andrews, Robert M. "TV Dinner Tray is Enshrined." Schenectady Gazette. May 1, 1987. (Feb. 18, 2013) http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=dwwhAAAAIBAJ&sjid=eHIFAAAAIBAJ&pg=3636,334377&dq=tv+dinner+cobbler&hl=en
  • Ashford, Molika. "Frozen Food's Gourmet Future." TechNewsDaily. Feb. 18, 2011. (Feb. 18, 2013)http://www.technewsdaily.com/4876-gourmet-frozen-foodshtml.html
  • Bortner, David. "Pittsburgh Freezers." Pabook.libraries.psu.edu. Spring 2010. (Feb. 18, 2013) http://pabook.libraries.psu.edu/palitmap/Frozen.html
  • Brastad, William A. "Packaged food item and method for achieving microwave browning thereof." Freepatentsonline.com. May 12, 1981. (Feb. 18, 2013) http://www.freepatentsonline.com/4267420.html
  • Brion, Raphael. "Jimmy Fallon and a Choir Sing an Ode to Hot Pockets." Eater.com. May 19, 2010. (Feb. 18, 2013) http://eater.com/archives/2010/05/19/we-love-hot-pockets-on-late-night-with-jimmy-fallon.php
  • Burney, Melanie. "Swanson Using Nostalgia to Mark 45th Anniversary of TV Dinner." Marketing News. April 26, 1999. (Feb. 18, 2013) http://w3.nexis.com/new/results/docview/docview.do?docLinkInd=true&risb=21_T16715667394&format=GNBFI&sort=BOOLEAN&startDocNo=1&resultsUrlKey=29_T16715725906&cisb=22_T16715725905&treeMax=true&treeWidth=0&csi=11635&docNo=1
  • Caplan, Jeremy. "New Fresh Food Delivery Service Makes Cooking Dinner Easy." Forbes. Nov. 30, 2012. (Feb. 17, 2003) http://www.forbes.com/sites/ups/2012/11/30/a-fresh-approach-to-delivering-food/
  • Chouikhi, Sidi Mohamed. "Package for steam cooking of food in a microwave oven." Google.com/patents. Aug. 5, 2005. (Feb. 17, 2003) http://www.google.com/patents/EP1749757A2?cl=en&dq=%22TV+Dinner%22&hl=en&sa=X&ei=jmkhUZmDLYzC0AGkzoBg&ved=0CDMQ6AEwADgU
  • ConAgra Foods. "Healthy Choice Cooks Up Innovation With Its Newest Frozen Entrees." Conagrafoods.com. Sept. 12, 2007. (Feb. 17, 2013) http://www.conagrafoods.com/news-room/news-Healthy-Choice-Cooks-Up-Innovation-With-Its-Newest-Frozen-Entrees-1051006
  • Dougherty, Philip H. "Advertising: Admen Ponder Smoke Signals." New York Times. July 24, 1969. (Feb. 18, 2013) http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive/pdf?res=F10B1FFC3C5D1A7B93C6AB178CD85F4D8685F9
  • Ferrari, Nancy. "Benefits of Cooking Veggies in the Microwave." Harvard Health Newsletter. 2008. (Feb. 17, 2013) http://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/HEALTHbeat_070808.htm
  • Ganapati, Priya. "Oct. 25, 1955: Time to Nuke Dinner." Wired. Oct. 25, 2010. (Feb. 18, 2013) http://www.wired.com/thisdayintech/2010/10/1025home-microwave-ovens/
  • Gaudette, Henry V. "Folding Table." United States Patent Office. Feb. 1, 1946. (Feb. 17, 2013) http://www.google.com/patents/US2471564?printsec=drawing#v=onepage&q&f=false
  • Gladstone, Jim. "TV Dinners Are Frozen In Our History." Chicago Tribune. Dec. 6, 1989. (Feb. 18, 2013) http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1989-12-06/features/8903150839_1_tv-dinner-gilbert-and-clarke-swanson-frozen
  • Hall, Trish. "How a Heart Attack Changed a Company." New York Times. Feb. 26, 1992. (Feb. 18, 2013) http://www.nytimes.com/1992/02/26/garden/how-a-heart-attack-changed-a-company.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm
  • Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide. "Microwaving food in plastic: Dangerous or not?" Harvard.edu. 2006. (Feb. 20, 2013) http://www.health.harvard.edu/fhg/updates/update0706a.shtml
  • Horowitz, Bruce. "Frozen Foods Take a Steamy Turn." USA Today. March 28, 2007. (Feb. 17, 2013) http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/industries/food/2007-03-27-frozen-foods-steamed_N.htm
  • Hot Pockets. "About Us." Hotpockets.com. Undated. (Feb. 18, 2013) http://www.hotpockets.com/aboutus/index.aspx
  • Inlinepkg.com. "Sleeves." Inlinepkg.com. Undated. (Feb. 18, 2013) http://www.inlinepkg.com/products_sleeves.htm
  • Kirchheimer, Sid. "The Classic Aluminum TV Dinner Tray Is Now a Thing of the Past." Spokane Chronicle. July 1, 1986. (Feb. 18, 2013) http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1345&dat=19860701&id=FcUSAAAAIBAJ&sjid=0PkDAAAAIBAJ&pg=5363,151013
  • Klemsrud, Judy. "The Fat Farms—Or, How To Come Home a Real Loser." New York Times. Jan. 23, 1972. (Feb. 18, 2013) http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive/pdf?res=F20B17F73C5E127A93C1AB178AD85F468785F9
  • Leader-Post. "Let Us Cook Your Dessert." Leader-Post. Dec. 1, 1953. (Feb. 18, 2013) http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=HCBUAAAAIBAJ&sjid=EzoNAAAAIBAJ&pg=1621,52131&dq=instant+pudding&hl=en
  • Lempert, Phil. "Six things you need to know about frozen dinners." Today.com. March 4, 2007. (Feb. 17, 2013) http://www.today.com/id/17937719/site/todayshow/ns/today-food/t/six-things-you-need-know-about-frozen-dinners/#.USGroKVOR8E
  • Library of Congress. "Question: Who Invented the TV Dinner?" Loc.gov. Aug. 23, 2010. (Feb. 17, 2013) http://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/mysteries/tvdinner.html
  • Marketresearch.com. "Global Market Review of Premium In-home Dining - Forecasts To 2014." Marketresearch.com. June 1, 2010. (Feb 20, 2013) http://www.marketresearch.com/just-food-v2647/Global-Review-Premium-home-Dining-2718023/
  • Mens Health. "The 20 Worst Packaged Foods in America." Menshealth.com. Undated. (Feb. 18, 2013) http://eatthis.menshealth.com/content/20-worst-packaged-foods-america?article=2&page=1
  • MIT Sloan Management. "Special Lecture by David Merage, Entrepreneur and Co-Founder, Chef America." Mitsloan.mit.edu. April 30, 2008. (Feb. 18, 2013) http://mitsloan.mit.edu/newsroom/2008-merage.php
  • National Archives. "What's Cooking Wednesday: National Waffle Day." Blogs.archives.gov. Aug. 24, 2011. (Feb. 18, 2013) http://blogs.archives.gov/prologue/?p=6643
  • New York Times. "TV Dinners Seek Gourmet Market." New York Times. Feb. 10, 1984. (Feb. 18, 2013) http://www.nytimes.com/1984/02/10/business/tv-dinners-seek-gourmet-market.html
  • Newman, Andrew Adam. "Spots for Healthy Choice Try to Feel Dieters' Pain." New York Times. Sept. 13, 2012. (Feb. 20, 2013) http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/14/business/media/healthy-choice-ads-try-to-feel-dieters-pain.html
  • Nickerson, Jane. "A Complete, Frozen Dinner-on-a-Plate, With Even the Dishwashing Eliminated." New York Times. Sept. 19, 1946. (Feb. 18, 2013) http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive/pdf?res=F30A11FB3F5B127A93CBA81782D85F428485F9
  • Pittsburgh Press. "New! Beef Pot Roast Dinner (advertisement)." Pittsburgh Press. Feb. 26, 1955. (Feb. 18, 2013) http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=ToQbAAAAIBAJ&sjid=ME4EAAAAIBAJ&pg=3439,3178764&dq=beef+tv+dinner&hl=en
  • Potter, W. James. "Media Effects." Sage Publications. 2012. (Feb. 18, 2013) http://books.google.com/books?id=0R9vvand33cC&pg=PA102&dq=TV+reduced+alpha+waves+passivity&hl=en&sa=X&ei=qkMiUfWkOZS50QHh3IGgDQ&ved=0CDMQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=TV%20reduced%20alpha%20waves%20passivity&f=false
  • Reisinger, Don. "Study: Americans, Japanese watch the most TV." CNet. Nov. 17, 2010. (Feb. 17, 2013) http://news.cnet.com/8301-13506_3-20023091-17.html
  • Rivenberg, Roy. "A Landmark Idea, But Whose?" Los Angeles Times. Nov. 23, 2003. (Feb. 18, 2013) http://articles.latimes.com/2003/nov/23/entertainment/ca-rivenburg23
  • Rosenberg, Howard. "Tray Chic." Los Angeles Times. Oct. 21, 1991. (Feb. 18, 2013) http://w3.nexis.com/new/results/docview/docview.do?docLinkInd=true&risb=21_T16716924320&format=GNBFI&sort=BOOLEAN&startDocNo=1&resultsUrlKey=29_T16716924324&cisb=22_T16716924323&treeMax=true&treeWidth=0&csi=306909&docNo=24
  • Schenectady Gazette. "You Buy The Dinner...We'll Buy You the Pie! (Advertisement)." Schenectady Gazette. Nov. 7, 1957. (Feb. 20, 2013) http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=L0UhAAAAIBAJ&sjid=3n4FAAAAIBAJ&pg=6711,1252948&dq=swanson+dessert+tv+dinner&hl=en
  • St. Petersburg Times. "Sale! Folding TV Snack Table (advertisement)." St. Petersburg Times. April 29, 1955. (Feb. 18, 2013) http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=nl4xAAAAIBAJ&sjid=i3oDAAAAIBAJ&pg=5914,5214392&dq=folding+tv+dinner+tray&hl=en
  • Smith, Andrew F. "The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink." Oxford University Press. 2007. (Feb. 17, 2013) http://books.google.com/books?id=AoWlCmNDA3QC
  • Stephey, M.J. "Waffles." Time. Nov. 23, 2009. (Feb. 18, 2013) http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1942956,00.html
  • Story, Louise. "Gerry Thomas, Who Thought Up the TV Dinner, Dead at 83." New York Times. July 21, 2005. (Feb. 17, 2013) http://travel.nytimes.com/2005/07/21/business/21thomas.html?_r=0
  • United Press International. "Apollo 8 Aims for The Good Earth." Lodi News-Sentinel. Dec. 26, 1968. (Feb. 17, 2013) http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=K2wzAAAAIBAJ&sjid=yTIHAAAAIBAJ&pg=6614,7735310&dq=apollo+astronaut+tv+dinner&hl=en
  • Youngstown Vindicator. "I'll Mail You A Silver Dollar (advertisement)." Youngstown Vindicator. Feb. 27, 1955. (Feb. 18, 2013) http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=94Q_AAAAIBAJ&sjid=TVUMAAAAIBAJ&pg=6804,3681419&dq=fried+chicken+tv+dinner&hl=en

UP NEXT

Why Is Lobster So Expensive — and Will it Stay That Way?

Why Is Lobster So Expensive — and Will it Stay That Way?

Lobster has long been associated with fine dining. But could newly imposed tariffs change that? HowStuffWorks looks at lobster's tanking price.


More to Explore