Warning: this article is very weird.
Have you ever eaten a TV dinner? Upon asking this question to junior Kristopher Macer, he enthusiastically replied, “I love TV dinners! I haven’t eaten those in years!” TV dinners are popular family food items that are eaten in front of the television. They come in small, pre-packaged, frozen boxes that are microwaved. Chances are, you have never thought about how the TV dinner came to be. Maybe you assumed someone somewhere just randomly had the idea.
Spoiler alert: Thanksgiving plays a large role.
Eating TV dinners on Thanksgiving used to be a tradition, but has largely fallen out of favor and is perceived as weird nowadays, as evidenced by the students that were interviewed. “I’m lonely,” said Kristopher, smiling, “but I’m not that lonely.”
According to an article from the Smithsonian Magazine, in 1953, Swanson Food, a large brand of family food (which is still around today) made a huge blunder. For their annual Thanksgiving celebration, the company ordered a bit too much turkey. Swanson salesman Gerry Thomas came across 260 tons of leftover frozen turkey in ten refrigerated railroad cars. For context, that is approximately the same size as 45 African bush elephants stacked on top of each other.
To make things worse, the refrigerated trains that were repurposed to store the leftover turkey only worked when the cars were moving, so the executives decided to keep them moving, awkwardly going back and forth across the United States between Nebraska and the East Coast, because they didn’t want the turkey going bad.
So what did that 50s salesman end up doing? Well, Gerry Thomas had a bright idea to take all that excess turkey, combine it with other Thanksgiving food, and package it into partitioned aluminum trays. Swanson released it under the Swanson name, sold ten million trays, and gave birth to the TV dinner.
Nowadays, Swanson is known worldwide for TV dinners, and is one of the largest food companies in the world.