We Have To Thank Ohio For The Microwavable Dinner
If it weren't for the frozen dinner section of the local Meijer, I don't think I'd survive. My life can move at a pretty fast pace sometimes, so dinner in 5 minutes from the microwave is practically a necessity for this job.
That being said, I recently found out I have the state of Ohio to thank for the Microwavable dinner, and now I feel a certain way about it.
On a recent fishing trip with my family, we got stuck in the cabin while it was pouring rain. Somehow, we ended up on the History Channel, and they were running a series called "The Food that Built America."
One episode really caught my eye, about the TV dinner. My go-to food on days where I'm absolutely gassed after a long day in the studio. So naturally, I wanna know where these meals came from.
The original TV Dinner was actually started by Swanson in Omaha, Nebraska in 1953. BUT, the big difference is, those weren't microwavable. They came in a tin tray that you had to put in the oven.
It still took 30 minutes to cook, BUT, mom didn't have to prepare whole turkeys, gravy from scratch, and steam vegetables for hours on end every day. It gave her a break for a change so SHE could relax with Dad and the kids.
During this same time period, the Stouffer family was seeing success with their "Top Of" restaurants in multiple markets, including Cleveland, Detroit, and Chicago. Brothers Vernon and Gordon Stouffer made sure they were producing high quality food, made with fresh ingredients. As women began working more, the restaurants saw more people asking how they could freeze, and reheat the meals at home, similar to the TV dinner from Swanson.
Their best option was to take the food home, cover it and freeze it, then pop it in the oven for a bit whenever they were ready to eat. The biggest problem with that was you still had to go to the restaurant to get the food, while Swanson's TV dinners were readily made to go in the grocery store.
Then, came the Microwave. In the late 1950s you could get a home model of the microwave oven, but it was HUGE, and expensive. Vernon and Gordon, however, saw the potential, and bought one for each of their kitchens. Gordon developed versions of their food, that could be stored in trays, frozen, and then when microwaved for a certain amount of time, come out nearly identical to what they served in their restaurants.
As technology improved, the microwave became smaller, and more affordable, and Stouffer's Microwavable Dinners took off in the early 1960s. In fact, they became FAR more popular than Swanson's TV dinner, which still had to be heated up in the oven. Swanson made the mistake of not trusting in the power of the microwave, and by the mid 1960s, it was in practically every household.
SO, we can thank Vernon and Gordon Stouffer for the creation of about half of my at-home dinners.... but here's the kicker.
The Stouffer family, is from Ohio. Originally started as a creamery in Cleveland, Ohio. Their first restaurants were in Cleveland. The first microwavable dinners were distributed from their restaurants in Cleveland.
As much trash as we talk on Ohio, we do have to at least acknowledge that SOME good things have come from the Florida of the Midwest. So I guess, I have to thank Ohio, and the Stouffer's family, for making it possible for me to not starve as a single guy.