It could be said that Thanksgiving gave birth to the American TV dinner. The executive of Swanson TV dinners, Gerry Thomas, claimed he conceived the idea after the food company found itself with a huge surplus of frozen turkeys because of poor Thanksgiving sales. In 1952, Swanson introduced their first dinner consisting of a turkey, cornbread dressing, frozen peas and sweet potatoes served in a tray traditionally used by the airline food service. With over half of American households owning televisions in the 1950s, by 1956, Swanson was selling 13 million TV dinners annually.
For a delightful insight into how TV dinners are made, here’s a brief lowdown. First, the fruit and vegetables are placed on a movable belt and washed and then undergo a process referred to as blanching in which they’re placed into a contained and boiled for 3 minutes, destroying any enzymes in the food that could effect negative flavouring, coloring or chemical changes to the food.
Next, it’s time for your dinner to be cryogenically frozen with liquid nitrogen on another conveyor belt. The sprayed liquid nitrogen boils as it comes into contact with the fresh food, flash-freezing it to retain its “natural quality”. In theory, if stored correctly, the small ice crystals that form can preserve the food indefinitely. Mmmmm.
Happy Thanksgiving all!