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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Swanson's TV Dinners and Expansive Brownies

Here's a bit from my novel, Woman on the Verge of Paradise. Give me six months to finish it. Fingers crossed I'll be done sooner.
   “Don’t stand too close to the microwave when you’re using it, kids.” Dad instructed. “It might cause brain damage. Essentially, we don’t know. It’s a new invention, and not enough research has been done.”
   While Dad talked in four-syllable words like “essentially,” I didn’t care if I got brain damage.  Rather, I’d pull a black vinyl kitchen chair over to the microwave, toss in a Swanson’s TV dinner, and spy through the microwave door of the Amana Radar Range, gawking at how the once small brownie expanded rapidly to ten or fifteen times its original size. “What a deal!” I’d boast, when it was done. “Look,” I’d show my siblings. “I get this huuuge brownie!”
   They weren’t impressed. “Gross! Those things taste gnarly,” Dawn sneered. 
   She was right. It was usually burnt and did taste gnarly. I suppose I’ve always focused more on quantity, not quality of chocolate.

Do you remember when the microwave was invented? Did/do you nuke TV dinners and watch the brownies expand into the rest of the meal and off of the plate? Which meal was/is your favorite? This was mine. I wouldn't touch that stuff now. Except the brownie.
May August and the new week treat you kindly!


  1. Oh, this brings back memories of college! The days of watching low quality TV dinners mutate before my very eyes. And yet, even after watching a radioactive brownie bubble up like a swamp and explode all over EVERYTHING I still managed to wolf it down.

    Mmmm, chocolate-covered salisbury steak with chocolate-covered corn and gravy-covered corn-brownie for dessert! Who's hungry?

  2. TV made its appearance late in our house. TV dinners didn't get a look in. Ever. And neither did the microwave.
    Nor brownies.
    I was a deprived child.
    The television I can take or leave. The TV dinners I suspect (I still haven't eaten one) I would be happy to leave.
    Brownies are a different question. And I am making up for my deprived youth.

  3. PS: Your forthcoming novel is whetting my appetite - much like brownies.

  4. I remember microwaves when they first became available here... and TV dinners.
    Neither of them have my allegiance, but brownies? Indubitably!
    I'm dreaming of homemade rocky road brownies. I might have to send you some, to celebrate when your new novel comes out.

  5. I remember! I think we nuked a few of those dinners. Wouldn't touch them now. Nasty. The big rage was microwave popcorn.

  6. I thought only latchkey kids, like myself, were forced to eat those. The weird, rubbery turkey meat in that viscous pseudo-gravy and the mashed potatoes with its strange texture that never got heated properly all the way through. Aye yi yi, I'm having childhood PTSD from this post.

  7. I barely remember the TV dinners. I think the one I remember the most is the salisbury steak dinner - mainly because it was awful LOL

  8. I don't think we ever put those dinners in the microwave. I always wanted to blow up an egg, but my mom wouldn't let me.

    The microwave we have now was my husband's parents'. It's over 35 years old and still works.

  9. we have a microwave at work that is from the dark ages - it chugs along, doesn't turn, and barely nukes a thing. We've come a long way from Swanson.

  10. I thought microwaves were thousands of years old. They've always existed while I've been alive. I pretty sure I saw the Flintstones using one, although they were warming their dinners up between the buttocks of a stegosaurus.

  11. Hmmm microwaves were already there when I was born lol I liked watching things explode in them

  12. I remember TV dinners very well, but I've never been a huge fan of them.

    As for microwaves, even when I did finally have one, I barely ever used it. Still don't.

  13. You would put a metal tray in a microwave?
    Seriously, I remember one (this is a yucky tale) time back in 1985 when I was visiting a friend. We both saw a mouse crawling along his counter top (oh, did I mention he lived in a crackhouse?). Anyway, he swept the critter up in a bag of potato chips and threw the whole kit (or mouse) and kaboodle in the microwave. A few seconds after turning it on...POOF! The bag popped.
    Okay, kinda gross, but it wasn't too, too bad. Hey, we didn't have salsa. Don't judge me.
    OMG, I think I grossed MYSELF out a little there.

  14. The first microwave oven I ever saw was at the huge dorm I lived in on the UCLA campus in 1972. Someone said there was this magic oven in the cafeteria that boiled water in ninety seconds. We all got stoned, went down to the kitchen and watched water boil.
    Gosh I miss college.

  15. You put a foil tray in the microwave and it didn't spark? Wow.

    My parents got their microwave in the mid 80s and my mom still has it. It has zero special features. I use my microwave for some things but I grew weary of soup exploding, and food being nuclear on the edges and ice cold in the center, so I mostly use my stove the old fashioned way.

  16. I cooked my Swanson's dinners in the traditional oven. I don't think we had microwaves yet (when I still "cooked"). Does that mean I'm old?

    P.S.: I HATED when my dessert and main courses contaminated each other!

  17. omg! i remember those. robyn you are a girl after my own heart. i couldnt wait to eat the brownie. save the best for last. my mom did not buy those things. she cooked from scratch. i had to wait to get my first job to afford/enjoy one. wouldnt touch with a ten foot pole now, though. super post! cheers!!

  18. I had no idea brownies were even microwavable! Aren't you supposed to eat them cold? I like to feel cool chocolate on my warm tongue. :)

  19. BnB that's what I'm saying! I actually did like corn in my brownie too. Yeah, I wasn't a well child.

    EC, I'm glad you're making up for lost time. If it's any consolation, TV din brownies aren't real brownies. I'm not sure what they are.

    Jacqueline, sounds divine. I won't argue with that.

    Alex, microwave popcorn is still in style. But that stuff's dangerous - it gets so hot and often burns the bag.

    Pickelope, I'm pretty sure we qualified as latchkey kids. Ah the memories! Yes, mashed potatoes that always had a cold spot no matter how long you nuked them for. PTSD loves company. Thanks!

    Optimistic, they're all awful. I'm pretty certain that I only ate the dessert in the salisbury steake one.

  20. Oh, thank you, friends for the reminder. I'll revise my writing to add a step. I turned the aluminum tray upside down over a microwave-safe plate, and then nuked it. Otherwise, it'd start a fire. I know from experience.

    Diane, 35 years and counting? That's impressive. They made them pretty sturdy back in the day.

    Addman, I'm pretty sure the Flintstones ate their Swansons TV dinners raw and frozen.

    Al, no guac either? That's just too gross! I can't refrain from judgement.

    Stephen, yeah, that was the selling point of the microwave: It can boil water in 90 seconds. Look how far we've come - now you can boil water in 70 seconds. Whoopdidoo.

    Yes, it means you're old Mitchell. But so are (some of) the rest of us.

  21. Nice! My kids eat Banquet meals. They are cheap and the brownies are the best part.

  22. I remember the beginnings of the microwave. I was pretty jealous of people who could afford one. A regular microwave that didn't do anything special cost about $400. Within a couple of years the price was down to $100. When I worked nights, I quite often nuked chicken pot pies. I don't think I ever cooked TV dinners in the microwave.


  23. Well, now I feel so old! Yes, I do remember those disgusting tv dinners. My mom worked nights so they were a staple growing up. And yes, I did get fascinated by the ever expanding brownies too!

  24. In retrospect...yeah. I'll NEVER forget how that bag just...POPPED.

  25. There wasn't even popcorn in there, Al? Only potato chips? That's just cruel.

  26. I do remember when microwaves first came out. We made muffins in them in home ec. class, and yes, we watched them puff all up. Great fun! Ha! :D

  27. I remember how excited I was to make s'mores in the microwave! The marshmallow expanded like your brownie, and it was quite a treat.


  28. I don't currently own a microwave. I have lots of fond memories of them breaking. Explosions and shattered glass made my childhood.

  29. Hmm...I don't remember ever nuking TV dinners growing mom cooked some, and we ate a lot of cereal since both of my parents worked. :) I did eat frozen meals for awhile as an adult cause it was a cheap and easy lunch, but I just can't do it anymore. No thank you!