Photo: TV Dinner

Sunday, September 09, 2012


Sometimes I think I'm the only one in the U.S. -- and maybe the world -- who likes meatloaf. And banana cream pie. Seriously, in college, I was the only one who ever ate banana cream pie (which I had only discovered at college). I'd take one serving of pie with my dinner, go back around to refill on water or soda and find that the pie had been left untouched in the entire 45 minutes I had spent eating. So I'd feel bad for the lonesome pie and take another slice, of course.

I went to Target with my mother this afternoon and she was feeling generous, so she encouraged me to pick up a $1.02 Banquet TV dinner for dinner. I have many memories of plopping down to the Disney Channel on the carpeted floor on Sunday afternoons with either a bowl of instant noodles or a TV dinner. I've had a lot of TV dinners in my day, having sort of babysat myself through my adolescence. I've had kids versions with brownies and cake for dessert, those with cobblers, pot pies, Lean Cuisines (never filling enough), and those without dessert at all. I picked up my all-time favorite today, Banquet's Salisbury Steak meal, with chewy corn kernels, powdery and flavorless mashed potatoes and fluffy "Salisbury steak" with the best gravy I've ever tasted in my life. A gelatinous but oh-so-flavorful gravy. One that I'm not ashamed to say I lick off of the plastic tray when I'm done.

I know it can't be good for me, but it brings me back not only to a time in my life when I was virtually worry-free, but it reminds me of an America before my time -- one that was simpler. I was so pleased to find that Banquet hasn't changed its Salisbury steak recipe (or chewy corn kernels or powdery mashed potatoes) for as long as I've been eating it, which is more than I can say for most food products. Which makes me wonder ... how much does nostalgia impact the success of industries? And are the senses of smell and taste more conducive to exploiting nostalgia than something like ... television?

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