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Posts Tagged ‘Clarence Birdseye

“A Genuine ‘TV’ Brand Dinner”*…

In 1925, the Brooklyn-born entrepreneur Clarence Birdseye invented a machine for freezing packaged fish that would revolutionize the storage and preparation of food. [see here.] Maxson Food Systems of Long Island used Birdseye’s technology, the double-belt freezer, to sell the first complete frozen dinners to airlines in 1945, but plans to offer those meals in supermarkets were canceled after the death of the company’s founder, William L. Maxson. Ultimately, it was the Swanson company that transformed how Americans ate dinner (and lunch)—and it all came about, the story goes, because of Thanksgiving turkey.

According to the most widely accepted account, a Swanson salesman named Gerry Thomas conceived the company’s frozen dinners in late 1953 when he saw that the company had 260 tons of frozen turkey left over after Thanksgiving, sitting in ten refrigerated railroad cars. (The train’s refrigeration worked only when the cars were moving, so Swanson had the trains travel back and forth between its Nebraska headquarters and the East Coast “until panicked executives could figure out what to do,” according to Adweek.) Thomas had the idea to add other holiday staples such as cornbread stuffing and sweet potatoes, and to serve them alongside the bird in frozen, partitioned aluminum trays designed to be heated in the oven. Betty Cronin, Swanson’s bacteriologist, helped the meals succeed with her research into how to heat the meat and vegetables at the same time while killing food-borne germs.

Whereas Maxson had called its frozen airline meals “Strato-Plates,” Swanson introduced America to its “TV dinner” (Thomas claims to have invented the name) at a time when the concept was guaranteed to be lucrative: As millions of white women entered the workforce in the early 1950s, Mom was no longer always at home to cook elaborate meals—but now the question of what to eat for dinner had a prepared answer. Some men wrote angry letters to the Swanson company complaining about the loss of home-cooked meals. For many families, though, TV dinners were just the ticket. Pop them in the oven, and 25 minutes later, you could have a full supper while enjoying the new national pastime: television.

In 1950, only 9 percent of U.S. households had television sets—but by 1955, the number had risen to more than 64 percent, and by 1960, to more than 87 percent. Swanson took full advantage of this trend, with TV advertisements that depicted elegant, modern women serving these novel meals to their families, or enjoying one themselves. “The best fried chicken I know comes with a TV dinner,” Barbra Streisand told the New Yorker in 1962…

Thanks to the pandemic, Thanksgiving’s most unexpected legacy is heating up again: “A Brief History of the TV Dinner.”

* The Swanson “promise” on every package

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As we peel back the foil, we might send clearly-outlined birthday greetings to Irma S. Rombauer; she was born on this date in 1877. An author of cookbooks, she is best remembered for The Joy of Cooking, one of the most widely-published and used cookbooks in the U.S. Originally unable to find a publisher, she privately printed an edition in 1931. But in 1935 a commercial edition (the first of nine) was released by Bobbs-Merrill.

Written in a plain but witty style, including basic techniques and simple dishes, not just the complext recipes that were the staples of most cookbooks of the time, it found a broad and loyal audience among the American middle class. Indeed, Julia Child credits The Joy of Cooking with teaching her the basic techniques of the kitchen, and (along with Gourmet Magazine) teaching her to cook.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

October 30, 2020 at 1:01 am

“Now my eyes are turned from the South to the North”*…

 

Your correspondent is off for a week or so to time zones sufficiently distant that regular service will be suspended for about a week.  (R)D should return on or around March 15.  Meantime…

 

antarctica

One of the selections at “Hilarious Terrible Maps.”

[TotH to KE]

* Ernest Shackleton

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As we find our way, we might recall that it was on this date in 1930 that General Foods put the first nationally-branded individually-packaged frozen foods– “Birds Eye Frosted Foods”– on sale in 18 retail stores in Springfield, Mass. to test the market.  General Foods (recently renamed from the Postum Corporation) had acquired the frozen food business from Clarence Birdseye; inspired by seeing Canadians thawing and eating naturally frozen fish, Birdseye had invented the category in the early 1920s.  The initial Birds Eye line featured 26 items, including 18 cuts of frozen meat, spinach and peas, a variety of fruits and berries, blue point oysters, and fish fillets.

Clarence Birdseye and his handiwork

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

March 6, 2020 at 1:01 am

“Enjoy every sandwich”*…

 

Tuna-Melt-2000x1657.jpg

It is hard to think of a food more emblematic of America’s working-class spirit than the humble tuna sandwich. While the Spanish make their tuna bocadillo with piquillo peppers and sherry vinegar and the French have their pressed pan bagnat, made with high-quality jarred tuna and an array of vegetables in a real baguette, the American version is an object of convenience and thrift.

Its assembly rests on three post–Industrial Revolution convenience foods: canned tuna, presliced wheat bread, and mayonnaise. The sandwich is portable, dependable, and eminently satisfying…

How Japanese-Americans helped launch the California tuna-canning industry—and one of America’s most beloved sandwiches: “A Second Look at the Tuna Sandwich’s All-American History.

* Warren Zevon

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As we muse on a melt, we might spare a thought for Clarence Birdseye; he died on this date in 1956.  An  inventor, entrepreneur, and naturalist, and the founder of the modern frozen food industry.

On Arctic trips as a field naturalist for the United States government, he noticed that freshly caught fish, when placed onto the Arctic ice and exposed to the icy wind and frigid temperatures, froze solid almost immediately. He learned, too, that the fish, when thawed and eaten, still had all its fresh characteristics. He concluded that quickly freezing certain items kept large crystals from forming, preventing damage to their cellular structure. In Sep 1922, Clarence organized his own company, Birdseye Seafoods, Inc., New York City, where he began processing chilled fish fillets.  He moved on to vegetables and other meats, then to the “fish stick,” along the way co-founding General Foods.  In the end, Birdseye had over 300 patents for creating and handling frozen food.

Clarence_Birdseye source

 

Written by (Roughly) Daily

October 7, 2018 at 1:01 am

“The secret of being a bore is to tell everything”*…

 

Leland Carlson is sitting in his Washington, D.C. apartment watching the rain outside his window and speculating what a dull man in Southern California would find amusing. “They might like to go to Venice Beach and watch the tide come in,” he says. “That sounds fun to do.”

Carlson, a 77-year-old retired tax attorney, is the founder of the Dull Men’s Club. The club is a loosely organized online community where men can share thoughts and experiences about ordinary things. There’s a website packed with articles on “dullites,” a shop featuring club swag and a calendar with various meet-ups in England and the U.S. along with celebrations of things like National Pencil Day.

Carlson says it’s remained a men’s group because he considers women “too exciting” (although those that appreciate dull men aren’t turned down). The club is a place to feel free from the pressures of being trendy, and it’s a place where no one cares about fancy cars, buying a bigger house or going on exotic trips…

Carlson wanted somewhere for “old farts” like him to discuss duck ponds and hubcap collections. He had no idea his Dull Men’s Club would launch a movement.  From MEL Magazine (via Narratively) “The International Society For Men Who Love Being Boring.”

* Voltaire

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As we consider a nap, we might recall that it was on this date in 1930 that General Foods put the first nationally-branded individually-packaged frozen foods– “Birds Eye Frosted Foods”– on sale in 18 retail stores in Springfield, Mass. to test the market.  General Foods (recently renamed from the Postum Corporation) had acquired the frozen food business from Clarence Birdseye; inspired by seeing Canadians thawing and eating naturally frozen fish, Birdseye had invented the category in the early 1920s.  The initial Birds Eye line featured 26 items, including 18 cuts of frozen meat, spinach and peas, a variety of fruits and berries, blue point oysters, and fish fillets.

Clarence Birdseye and his handiwork

source

 

Written by (Roughly) Daily

March 6, 2017 at 1:01 am

Burning Man…

Jessica Warner’s Craze : Gin And Debauchery In An Age Of Reason contains what the author suggests is a complete list of victims of spontaneous human combustion in literature from 1798 to 1893:

  • The narrator’s father in Wieland by Charles Brockden Brown (1798)
  • William the Testy in Knickerbocker’s History Of New York by Washington Irving (1809)
  • A woman in Jacob Faithful by Captain Marryat (1834)
  • A blacksmith in Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol (1842)
  • Sir Polloxfen Tremens in The Glenmutchkin Railway by William Edmondstoune Aytoun (1845)
  • The sailor Miguel Saveda in Redburn by Herman Melville (1849)
  • Mr Krook in Bleak House by Charles Dickens (1852-53)
  • The whisky-sodden and derelict Jimmy Flinn in Life On The Mississippi by Mark Twain (1883)
  • A character in Docteur Pascal by Emile Zola (1893)

(One admires the discipline with which Warner excludes the female cook in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847), who was merely “in a frame of mind and body threatening spontaneous combustion”…)

[TotH to Dabbler; illustration above– from Bleak House, showing the discovery of Mr. Krook’s “remains”– via The Guardian]

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As we retreat to the other end of the thermometer, we might recall that it was on this date in 1927 that Clarence Birdseye patented “fish fingers” in the U.K.  Birdseye had already patented a range of “flash-freezing” processes and devices, inspired by his experiences as a biologist and trapper in Labrador earlier in the century.  He had noticed that while slow freezing creates ice crystals in frozen foods– crystals that, when thawed, create sogginess– meat exposed to the extremely cold temperatures in the Canadian North– frozen essentially instantly– didn’t create internal ice, and were as tasty when thawed months later as fresh.  Birdseye created quick-frozen vegetables and meats as a storable option to fresh.  But “fish fingers,” later introduced in the U.S. as “fish sticks,” were his inaugural product created expressly to be frozen.

 source

Written by (Roughly) Daily

April 14, 2013 at 1:01 am

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