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The Nuclear Option

Posted on Tuesday, February 16th, 2021

Dave!The microwave in my work's break area is very old. It has aged so much that the white plastic parts are now yellow plastic parts. I don't know much about it, but I believe it's a 10-watt model. At least it seems that way. Something which would cook in 20 seconds in my microwave at home can take 2 full minutes at work. It's wasteful to just toss it out for a newer model since it's still functional, so we just deal with it. If somebody's reheating a bagel (or whatever) when you want to eat lunch, you just come back in ten minutes... no big deal.

Years ago I was reading a vintage magazine where they were predicting that in the future frozen meals would be packed in nuclear-powered packaging. No microwave required. You'd squeeze down on a corner of the aluminium tray and the Uranium-235 embedded inside would activate and cook your TV dinner. This raised all kinds of questions. Such as... what happens to all those food trays? Do they just go in the trash-can and get taken to a landfill? Wouldn't we all be glowing in the dark if the product caught on? What were they thinking?

At least they were still going to use aluminum trays instead of the plastic crap we use now. Not that anybody back then would ever recycle anything. Back then everything went straight into the trash.

I have a certain nostalgia for the TV dinners of old.

The earliest dinners I remember as a kid didn't come with dessert. There were three sections... one for the meat (for me that meant meatloaf, chicken, or salsbury steak), one for the potatoes (usually mashed, but sometimes slices or fries), and one for the vegetables (exclusively consisting of peas, carrots, and corn or a mixture thereof). That's it. That's all you got...

A Swanson TV dinner in aluminum tray.
Photo from a Google Search, so I dunno.

I didn't like any kind of meat, even when I was very young, so mom sometimes let me have a macaroni & cheese dinner.

Eventually a small and mysterious fourth section was added. This was where the dessert landed. Sometimes it was fancy cobblers, cornbread, muffin, or maybe even a brownie, but my favorite was baked apple slices. Oh boy! There were only about four or five of them, but they were floating in a sea of sugar-cinnamon syrup that was so good I'd try and lick it out of the damn tray...

A Swanson TV dinner in aluminum tray.
Photo from a Google Search, so I dunno.

As I got older, Swanson started getting creative. They had "International" versions which steered away from the meat and potato fare that the USA lived on in favor of exotic dishes from Old Mexico or Italy or even the faraway islands of Polynesia! Instead of a mere four sections, they would have five! They also had larger-size dinners which were their HUNGRY-MAN line of bake-and-serve meals. It was a bonanza of non-stop food goodness, fresh from your freezer!

Eventually microwave ovens dictated that aluminum trays be ditched in favor of plastic. And the golden age of TV dinners was over. We never got a nuclear option because microwaves were cheaper, I guess.

But not nearly as much fun, certainly. If Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull taught us anything, it's that.

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Categories: DaveLife 2021, Food 2021Click To It: Permalink
   

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