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A food blog from NHPR news, digital, & programming staff, exploring food & food culture around the state & the New England region. On-air features air Thursdays on All Things Considered and Saturdays during Weekend Edition.

What's For Dinner?


My mother loves to cook, and as a result she raised an entire family of food obsessed children who also love to cook. My father rarely cooked but was a big fan of eating and proclaimed after every meal, “Dear, this is the best [insert main course here] I’ve EVER had!” She would roll her eyes at his genuine but exaggerated praise and I would chime in with, “Mom, this was the worst dinner ever.” A big grin would spread across her face as she leaned over to pat my head; my mom gets me. Because she cooked an amazing, well-balanced meal nearly every night, my siblings and I were consistently robbed of what we felt was the holy grail of eating: the frozen TV dinner.

Every once in a while, my parents would go out on a rare dinner date without their children in tow and leave us with a babysitter. And when they did…we got…SWANSON’S FROZEN TV DINNER! I think they call it “Kid Cuisine” now, and I can assure you it has not improved since I ate them in the late 70’s. If I close my eyes I can still taste the gummy apple crisp that I challenged myself to save until the end of the meal. The trapezoidal section of peas and carrots always got relegated to the dog or the trash and the meat was picked at a bit, but that glob of apple-like substance made it all worthwhile. I’m certain I had more refined taste buds even at the tender age of five, but clever marketing obviously had its way with me and I insisted that whenever my parents were planning a night out that I be provided with a meal that I desired, nay, deserved! While researching for our interview with Emily Matchar last week I came across some of those classic TV dinner commercials that had such a profound effect on me. See if you feel the urge to buy a frozen meal for dinner tonight!

This is a link to a great ad from the 50's for Swanson's TV dinners mentioned in the photo above.

Here's a two-for-one of classic Swanson's ads. I am relieved that food photography has come so far:

Ok, this one's a joke, but it really doesn't seem that far from the actual ads:

Here's a random slide show of Swanson's dinners. The Fried Chicken Dinner (at :37) was my hands down favorite:

Special Bonus: As I got a little older I moved on to the famous Stouffer's French Bread Pizza. Their tagline should have been: A Burned Roof of the Mouth in Every Box! I challenge you to keep this jingle from getting stuck in your head.

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