Monday, March 1, 2010

Almost A Party On Swanson Night

Hey, Happy Birthday, kid! Blow out the candle and make a wish. I wish this TV Dinner looked like they do in the ads. Say, that's a good wish. But don't hold your breath. TV dinners were famous for their wrinkled peas in I-Can't-Believe-It's-Butter-Sauce, sad pieces of meat and deflated desserts. Yum.

This ad is from 1968. I ate a lot of these TV dinners in the late 60s - not this one, though, I would remember a muffin. With or without a candle. And then the year after this, there was the TV Dinner Incident:

Our 2nd grade teacher had decided that it would be very educational for us to go around the room and everyone would share insights about What Their Mommy Made For Dinner (Daddies did not make dinner in 1969, but you knew that, right?). Everyone said all sorts of things - oh, you know. Pot roast, roast chicken, roast this and that, tuna noodle casserole, I don't know. Things you had to fiddle with and put together from scratch.

And then it was my turn. I got up and said my mommy's specialty was TV Dinners. That's what she really liked to make! Honestly. And you know, I get it, I really do. And I didn't mind. It wasn't actually every single day, though that was the impression I gave, of course. Then I went home and told her, very happily, what I'd said. She wasn't totally thrilled.

But we still went on celebrating Swanson Night, of course.

[Advertisement from Life, April 5, 1968.]

16 comments:

vanilla said...

Little kids-- honest to a fault.

TV dinners? no, thank you.

Barbara said...

I used to BEG for TV dinners! Occasionally, I'd get a turkey one. Yeah, they looked nothing like the picture on the box, but in my mind, they were dee-lish. More than likely though, in our house, the command was "make yourself a sandwich".

So, how did your mom rectify her image to your teacher?

wngl said...

Just about every night was Swanson night at our house -when the hamburger wasn't being helped, that is. A single mom raising me and my sister had a lot more on her plate that haute cuisine, and I believe we had the exact dinner in the ad. Those desserts were almost totally air and had no flavor at all. It gives me the shivers to remember them!

The Crazy Suburban Mom said...

I used to beg for TV dinners too! LOL, I guess you had to have my moms dinners to 'know' what that was all about :) But I loved them...really really did!

Bill said...

Boy, they really do want you to stick a candle in that muffin, don't they? As if it won't taste waxy enough on its own. They got the candle going in the photograph and the illustration, so you won't forget.
My mom made June Cleaver look like a slattern, so TV dinners were rare treats for me, but I loved how everything had its own little compartment.

Jaya said...

I don't recall the blueberry muffin either, but other than that, THAT is what the TV dinners of my childhood looked like. The metal trays, the compartments shaped that way, except without the muffin...

In the late 1960s I went to a boarding school where we only ate ultra fresh organic food, so stuff like TV dinners seemed like special magic food... as did TV, now that I think about it, because we weren't allowed to watch television at that school either.

DrJulieAnn said...

Isn't "chopped sirloin steak" just a fancy term for a hamburger? 'Cause you just know that Swanson wasn't serving Grade A meat...candle or no candle.

Eric said...

I've heard that TV Dinners, they really can't be beat.

- ZZ Top

Tori Lennox said...

Oh, come on! The least they could do for the kid's birthday is buy him one of those TV dinners made for kids with games and stuff on the box!

Lidian said...

vanilla - I agree, I had enough back then ;)

Barbara - My mom probably avoided the subject with my teacher altogether!

James - We had Hamburger Helper, too. And canned soup. It was really OK with me though. Ironically, when my mom did cook she was sensational at it.

Tracy - My favorite thing was the brownie in the meatloaf dinner.

Bill - I liked the compartments, too. You knew nothing would touch anything else (which is how I liked things to be, on a plate).

Jaya - Organic food would have seemed magic to me! Grass, greener, etc.

DrJulieAnn - Yes, that is some fancy Swanson talk.

Eric - This is not true. They can be beat. Oh yes.

Tori - Games on the box? Really? I missed out!

Kath Lockett said...

Saddest. Birthday. Ever.

Amanda said...

If I got this for my birthday, I would think my mom hated me.

Mee2 said...

I always loved them TV dinners. When I was a kid.

kathcom said...

I never saw a muffin in a Swanson's dinner. I remember the gooey cherries. They were so good. I'm always ordering cherry pie or cherry cheesecake trying to replicate that taste. But there's no substitute for a fond memory.

ManOverBoard.com said...

OH how I remember those Swanson dinners. The mashed potatoes tasted like glue. And the meat was always suspect if they ever had any protein in them.... has far as putting a candle in the desert, who the hell would celebrate using the Swanson dinner as the meal?

LaVonne said...

My mom had a lot of health problems and my dad did cook a lot, but what with also having to work full time and take care of Mom, we ate a LOT of TV dinners! Even so, my parents always made sure I had a real birthday cake!

I miss the metallic taste of foil-based TV dinners. I really do! At least the metal added SOME flavor.