I haven’t bought a TV dinner in ages. I’m not talking about Swanson’s, but of the Budget Gourmets or Healthy Choices or Stouffer’s Lean Cuisine, or any of the multitude of options that are out there in the supermarket when you walk through the frozen food aisle. The tasteless nature of these “foods” forced me to look towards myself when coming to making tasty dinners and foods at home.
There are many, many reasons to hate these products. On a purely aesthetic level they taste, at best, marginal. At the worst they taste like plastic coated in a chemical sauce. Ugh. As I sit here typing these words, I find myself shuddering.
Blech! Accch! Ack!
On a political level there’s much to hate as well. TV dinners are responsible for the trasmformation of our farms from privately-owned to the mega-corporate farms out there today. TV Dinners are responsible for ConAgra, a food company so keen on profit motive that their subsidiaries have been known to feed recalled foods to prisoners, and the horrible meat packing companies mentioned in Fast Food Nation. I find it hard to give my money to such industries.
These are the things I think of when I read that this year is the TV Dinner’s 50th anniversary. The article paints a retro picture of the TV dinners history, without being too overtly harsh. That is a shame. These convenience dinners, along with the microwave oven, have influenced the food culture here in America far more than most people realize. If you think I’m kidding, look in your freezer right now and take count of how many of these meals are collecting ice crystals.
It’s hard for me to understand the trade off of time for taste. Are our collective palates that numb that we’re willing to exchange the 15 minutes we save in cooking and clean up? On a good day, I can cook a puttanesca in 12 minutes, and clean up will be 5-7. It takes five minutes to cook a frozen spaghetti dish. I’m willing to make that 15 minute sacrifice in my life to make that dinner. Why aren’t other people?
What it also comes down to for me is the idea of giving my money to local farmers or artisinal food producers(butchers, bakers, etc). When my money goes to buying fresh produce, or even the super-market’s butcher, it’s money that’s not given to the hands of those responsible for these travesties of food.
So yeah, the TV Dinner has been around for 50 years. But I certainly won’t shed a tear if they don’t make 60.