DAILY DIRT: The long and winding story of the TV dinner


Daily Dirt for Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022

Happy Thanksgiving and welcome to today’s three thoughts that make up Vol. 457 of The Daily Dirt.

1. Have you ever wondered how those frozen TV dinners became such an integral part of American pop culture? 

Interestingly, there is a link to a long-ago Thanksgiving.

“According to the most widely accepted account, a Swanson salesman named Gerry Thomas conceived the idea of (what would eventually be) the company’s frozen dinners in late 1953 when he saw that the company had 260 tons of frozen turkey left over after Thanksgiving,” wrote Kovie Biakolo for smithsonianmag.org.

Those 260 tons of frozen bird were sitting in 10 refrigerated railroad cars. Incredibly, the train’s refrigeration worked only when the cars were moving, so Swanson had the trains travel back and forth between its Nebraska headquarters and the East Coast “until panicked executives could figure out what to do,” according to “Adweek.”

Fortunately, that didn’t take long.

“Thomas had the idea to add other holiday staples such as cornbread stuffing and sweet potatoes, and to serve them alongside the bird in frozen, partitioned aluminum trays designed to be heated in the oven,” Biakolo said.

A Swanson’s bacteriologist helped the meals succeed with research into how to heat the meat and vegetables at the same time while killing food-borne germs.

In 1954, the first full year of production, Swanson sold 10 million trays — or “TV dinners.”

Banquet Foods and Morton Frozen Foods soon brought out their own offerings, winning over more and more middle-class households across the country.

The rest, as they say, is culinary history.

2. This week’s “Fond on Facebook” also highlights Thanksgiving:

“Walmart is handing out free Thanksgiving turkeys to families who can outrun security.”

“There are six American towns named Turkey. They are in West Virginia, Texas, Kentucky, Arkansas, Ohio and North Carolina.” 

“During their first four weeks of life, baby turkeys — called poults — are unable to fly and rely on their mother for protection.  (A “poult”? I had no idea.)

“California residents consume the most turkey per person of any state. Missouri residents are No. 5.”

3. Well, those of you who were worried about the direction of “Yellowstone” this season can rest easy.

Judging by Sunday night’s most-recent telecast, America’s No. 1 show has regained its mojo. And we can thank hot-headed Beth for that. The closing 15 minutes or so were classic Beth.


First, she smashed a beer bottle over a girl’s head. Then a few minutes later, went over and punched her, just for good measure. And then, while sitting in the back of the police car, let go with a memorable profanity laced epithet in her direction.

Long live Beth Dutton!

Steve Thought O’ The Day — The first TV dinner I ever had as a wee lad was salisbury steak. It was not memorable. In addition, the idea of TV dinners became a reality about the time of my birth — late 1953. Coincidence? I think not.

Steve Eighinger writes daily for Muddy River News. He once ate TV dinners for 73 consecutive days between marriages.

Miss Clipping Out Stories to Save for Later?

Click the Purchase Story button below to order a print of this story. We will print it for you on matte photo paper to keep forever.

Current Weather


Trending Stories