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I have, in my lifetime, prepared and eaten some of the old TV dinners. You know, the Swanson or Morton variety with the stamped foil tray and the heavy edge crimped foil lid, designed to help gently heat the contents of this fine repast while outside the tray was an inferno of four hundred ten degrees. Well, that’s all changed.

Now, the dinners are no longer from Morton, but from some kindly looking old lady named Marie Calendar, amongst others. They are also smaller, even though we (most of us) are larger. But I am kind of getting off the track here.

What I really want to discuss is the preparation. With the old dinners you could ignore the instructions about pulling back the lid from your fried chicken. Sure, it would be less crispy, but it was still chicken. The meal still took twenty to thirty minutes to heat properly. Then one would have to wait for a short two or three minute interval to allow for cooldown so as not to burn the lips or the fingers, as the case may be.

Today, in the twenty-first century, one has to cut slits in the glued on plastic cover. This is to facilitate the thawing of the yet to be creamy mashed potatoes and the crunchiness of the cherry cobbler. Also, it prevents the plastic from melting and ruining these fine assets to the meal. As if tasteless, yet crunchy cobbler is an asset. Either way, with plastic melted or unmelted, the cobbler becomes a tart, crumbly and gluey culinary experience.

On top of that, after ten minutes of watching the tray spin within the microwave oven, one has to stop the process called nuking to take the tray out and stir the contents such as the potatoes and the cobbler or the mixed veggies. Supposedly it promotes even heating. I think it’s just to give one something to do while having to starve while waiting longingly for the chicken on the other side of the glass, spinning and heating without a care in the world. Then, based on the nuke strength of the microwave oven, one can expect to retrieve the dinner in fifteen or twenty minutes. And let’s not forget, the cooldown time, which has now extended to five minutes.

I tried all this the other day, so I know how difficult preparing TV dinners have become. So, after going through the motions of the preparation, I just chucked the darn thing back into the freezer and headed out to the nearest McDonalds drive-thru. At least there, even with rush hour, it only took twelve minutes from grill to my mouth. The line was fairly long. Even the dessert (hot apple pie) was right.

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