The TV Dinner

The "TV Dinner," a registered trademark of the Swanson company, first appeared in the early 1950s as women began leaving the kitchen for work outside the home, changing the way America ate. According to company lore, the product was invented by a sales representative who was left with 270 tons of unsold Thanksgiving turkey after the holiday. Inspired by a food tray with compartments he had seen on an airline, the representative proposed a frozen, prepared dinner for retail sale. The first frozen dinners—featuring turkey, stuffing, gravy, sweet potatoes, and peas—went into production in 1954. The following year, Swanson sold 25 million of them.

—Paula Kepos

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