Submitted by Susanne Bacon.
Frozen convenience food, also known as TV dinners, has never been part of my German life. My mother was a home-maker, and she cooked and baked everything from scratch. Most of my peers’ mothers were also home-makers doing the same. Those peers who probably had TV dinners had working mothers and no granny at home who would have done the cooking or baking. My family didn’t have a TV set for the longest time of my childhood, either. So, TV dinners would have been setting in at a later time only. If …
Of course, I knew of the existence of TV dinners. There were few options in the supermarket freezers back then. Not like today when you sometimes walk aisle after aisle to find something that is actually frozen in its natural state and unmixed with anything else.
Just so I knew what a TV dinner was like, my husband had me buy some of these deep-frozen trays some years ago. Not having a micro-wave was actually an inconvenience. And in the end, we sat in front of the TV like probably so many of my readers have experienced it, balancing the tray, neither enjoying the food nor the TV show that was on. Balancing the tray and stabbing at food on your lap is not actually convenient.
I don’t want to discuss the quality of the food. It always depends on how much money you are willing to spend. And to like flavors or not depends very much on individual taste. What I dislike about convenience food of any kind is the amount of trash that it involves. Plastic trays, lids, foils, and cardboard packaging make me feel like I’m sitting on a dump. Which is another reason why I’m not into food to-go, by the way. Unless it is home-made and boxed into containers that are reusable.
Frozen, reheatable convenience food has been around ever since 1944, I have learned. It came up with the concept of eating hot meals during a flight. Later, the Swanson company came up with the term “TV dinner”. And in some book about eating and cooking habits (I forget the title), I found that the once famously lavish English cuisine was ruined first by the post-war years’ food deprivation and, then, the availability of TV dinners. Women relying on TV dinners allegedly unlearned to cook. Well, at least I can say this much for the British cuisine – it’s up to par with other countries’ cuisines again. Who has ever heard of Gordon Ramsey and Jamie Oliver knows that this is no fib. Besides I had the pleasure to experience it for the past 15 years again and again.
Dinners during TV shows or TV shows during dinners were unheard of in my family even once we had a TV set, finally. It would have been deemed a depreciation of my mother’s wonderful cooking. Of the love she put into the food.
We had only one exception to this rule. It occurred every year in February, during carnival. That was when we got take-out from a restaurant chain AND watched a carnival show in front of TV. We even set up dinner at a different table for this. Carnival, the time of bending rules, did this very special one-time thing for our family. But we ate with real cutlery and from real porcelain at a real table. This was as much of a TV dinner as I ever got during my years as a minor.
Later, as a single, I never owned a TV due to lack of interest. I read the newspapers and listened to the radio to stay informed. I cooked and baked from scratch just as my mother had done. I had my solitary meals at a table laid with real china and cutlery, candles, and flowers.
Today, I still don’t buy TV dinners. I still don’t own a microwave. And my husband, unasked, mostly switches off TV while we are eating. It’s purely food and conversation time. Funny how things can become a tradition without anybody enforcing them.