Things I miss: The Swanson TV Dinner

Now I’m wondering what happens when you throw a bag of microwave popcorn in a fire.

6 Likes

Doesn’t work to produce edible popcorn.

5 Likes

Mmmm, “textured protein”* and beans – a college staple for me.

*I never wanted to know what it was

6 Likes

My dirt-poor moment was in college when I was doing an internship in San Francisco, which is not a cheap city to live in. I would buy bulk bags of bulgur wheat, beans, quinoa, and TVP and cook a sort of gruel with soy sauce and garlic. I think it worked out to something like 20 cents per meal, and tasted like it.

12 Likes

GAWD, I still remember what every one of those Swanson horrors tasted like. I can still taste them and it’s been 45 (FOURTEEFIVE) YEARS since I’ve had one.
Sadly, my mom was a great cook, but sometimes we’d be thrown these when she couldn’t be bothered by her yammering sprogs.

5 Likes

Crack an egg on it. Seriously.

4 Likes

My family cooks like insane people. Weekly 3 course meals requiring multi-day prep. All bread home baked for long stretches of time. Almost everything from scratch for much of my childhood.

We still ate TV dinners occasionally. An easy, cheap, treat for the kids when time was short. Kids get more excited about novelty than flavor. We also had occasional “appetizer parties” where dinner was various fun frozen snack foods. Pigs in a blanket, moz sticks, etc. Not everyone who has a nostalgic attachment to garbage food was sadly deprived.

11 Likes

I recall having those a few times in the 80s, but the idea went against the grain of my mom’s approach to food. I think a sibling made a special request, or something.

Most of the time we had: a meat or beans, a warm vegetable or rice, a salad,
and home-made whole wheat tortillas. After eating chicken-a-la-king with mashed potatoes one time at school (because I was a free lunch kid for a while) I was super suspicious of anything pre-made or which included “mashed potatoes”.

6 Likes

See, after reading about the horrible conditions those fancy pre-boxed cook your own meal was created under, I don’t feel too bad about these frozen entrees. I figure if both the people who made the dinners and the folks who ate them are miserable, you’ve maintained karmic balance.

4 Likes

“mashed potatoes” are the most suspicious of foods. I’ve never had a pre-made mash potato that passed muster.

2 Likes

I disagree - dried mashed potatos are a surprisingly decent staple. Escpecially on camping trips, lightweight calories galore :wink:

5 Likes

My poor-time foods were barley, turnips, radishes, onions, rice, peppers, and cheap sausages made into stir-fry and stir-fry accessories, or potato soup (with garlic powder, italian seasoning, and saltines). Potted meat, tuna, or peanut butter sandwiches for lunch. Pancakes or scrambled eggs for breakfast (sometimes omeletized with the onions and peppers).

The frozen ones always seem watery and a little gritty, but not bad. The instant mashed potatoes are good though. From what I’ve seen, people that don’t like them usually radically underestimate the proper amount of Country Crock to add.

5 Likes

its just what’s left of soybeans after they press them for oil.

2 Likes

I don’t know, it just doesn’t seem like an authentic Swanson dinner

14 Likes

Situationally they work. But you can’t tell me they taste much like potato, or aproxamate the texture of propper mash. That stuff is useful, but usually in the same way as other bland, dried starch. Flour, corn starch etc. Its also a great binder for things made of actual potato. Gnocchi, latkes etc.

Fake butter for your fake mash! Adequate is not the same as good. Even the best chilled, heat in a skillet with butter pre-mashed taters I’ve had (oddly enough Country Crock brand) lack for potato flavor. And suffer from a texture that’s either weirdly gummy, or sloppy and grainy.

A lot of people seem to think that taters are supposed to be bland. So the utter blandness of this stuff doesn’t bother them much. But good spuds properly handled have a pretty damn good, if subtle, flavor of god damned potato. If that’s not there I’m not happy. And I eat a lot of potatoes.

4 Likes

My late brother Craig was notoriously difficult to please when it came to mashed potatoes. We mostly grew up on Potato Buds when times were tight, and those always tasted fine to the rest of us, but Craig insisted on hand-smashed potatoes, and lord, would he complain if they came out the slightest bit lumpy.

So on Thanksgiving he was given the job of potato-masher, since he was the only one who really cared enough about it. I haven’t had Potato Buds in years (decades?), but I wouldn’t turn down a bowlful with butter.

QFT.

4 Likes

This conversation is making me miss @SmashMartian

10 Likes

Don’t get me wrong: there’s no replacement for the real deal, and I believe I make some kick-butt mashed potatos (hint: cram as much butter into it as you can, and select some good cultivars). But as far as instant food goes (noodles and whatnot), you could do worse.

4 Likes

I always loved the bottom layer of the potatoes that stuck to the tray; it peeled off in a sheet and had a slightly metallic aftertaste.

5 Likes

Luckily for me, my mother thought a crockpot was a bridge too far. I think she owned one, but it was a mysterious machine for her. She preferred to destroy food hands on, not in a time released fashion.

5 Likes