Frozen TV dinners, along with miniature cereal boxes, fell into the category of Very Special Treats when I was a small child. Because even at seven years old I was obsessed with organization and compartmentalization, I was fascinated by the segregated portions proffered by the TV dinner. Clearly, I was born in the wrong era since the "TV dinner" (at one time actually a registered trademark of the Swanson company) peaked in popularity during the 1960s. And while there's no shortage of microwaveable frozen food in the grocery store, only a handful of companies still make the old-school-style frozen TV dinner. Here are five to try:
5. Hungry-Man All Day Breakfast. If breakfast is the most important meal of the day, why can't it also be the last meal of the day? The only problem is, after a long day at the office, few of us have the energy to do little more than scramble some eggs. Hungry-Man All Day Breakfast solves this problem by combining eggs, pancakes, sausage, bacon and hash browns all in a single one-pound platter. Just pour syrup over the whole thing and call it a night.
4. Banquet Chicken Fingers Meal. You gotta love the TV dinner brownie. Manufacturers can describe it any way they want (in this case, it's "fudgy"), but it always has this dehydrated exterior and an oddly chewy center that's strangely very satisfying. I might even suggest eating the brownie first, a move that will also prevent any collateral ketchup (which you'll need, obviously, for those fingers and fries) from messing up your dessert.
3. Night Hawk Beef Patty 'n Gravy. Named after a chain of steakhouses once open in Austin, Night Hawk continues to offer a variety of frozen meals, virtually all of which include sliced cow. For the true TV dinner experience, I suggest going for the amorphous beef patty topped with a gravy equally nebulous in nature, corn and tater tots. Only thing missing is a gloppy cherry cobbler. Sigh.
2. Kids Cuisine Fun Shaped Chicken Breast Nuggets. Pledging to provide "fuel for fun," Kids Cuisine is really for everyone, because aren't we all children at heart? Anyway, give me one reason why only toddlers can enjoy "bug-shaped chicken breast nuggets", corn, macaroni and cheese, and gummy snacks? In fact, I really wouldn't recommend this meal to anyone in the early learning stages of life lest he or she get seriously confused by this conflation of bugs, boobs and birds.
1. Hungry-Man Roasted Carved White Meat Turkey. With such a diverse assortment of TV dinners (including the additional "Pub Favorites" and "Classics" lines), there should be little surprise that Hungry-Man gets a double spot on this list with its "Thanksgiving" style dinner of sliced turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, mixed vegetables and some sort of apple-cranberry thing. Relatives not included, thank God.