Saturday, October 10, 2009
Swanson's Hungry Man Turkey Dinner
While other companies may have made frozen dinners first (so says the all-knowing Wikipedia entry), it was Swanson's original that made the whole concept catch on. And here we all are years later still eating "TV Dinners." (And yes, that is what Swanson actually called them.)
Should I also admit that I remember, back in the day, when the trays were still metal and you couldn't microwave them? And we only had six television channels...and no Internet...and the only kinds of coffee you could get were "regular" and "decaf"...damn you kids! (insert fist shaking here)
Anyways...Swanson still makes the classic frozen dinner -- and this "Hungry Man" version, which boasts 1 pound of food, which really sounds like a lot. The meal features 3 slices of breast meat and 1 slice of what I think is supposed to be dark meat, but in reality is just a scarier beige color than the rest of the turkey. There is also mashed potatoes, stuffing, corn, and what I consider to be the highlight of the meal -- the apple cranberry dessert.
Let's talk about the components, one by one:
It seems to be more of a "pressed turkey" product than I remember it being the last time I ate one (well over two years ago). It's kind of patchy in terms of color. The texture is like a really thick piece of processed deli meat. The flavor is good; it's got a strong "roasted" taste to it. But at the same time, it seems like it tastes that way because it was injected or altered in some fashion to give it a stronger turkey flavor than it would have on its own.
I am not a big stuffing fan, so I am probably going to be less critical of this stuffing than someone who loves it would be. For me, the bread crumb stuffing reminds me of a drier version of Stove Top. You can taste the onion, celery and sage. I have to admit I would actually chose this stuffing over many others -- but again, I am not a huge stuffing fan to start with.
Super-processed (not that the rest of the meal isn't), too salty, and only vaguely poultry flavored. Hmmmm, can I think of something nice to say about it? Well, it's wet...to the best of my knowledge it is not classified as a weapon of mass destruction...sorry, I can't think of anything much nicer than that.
There's not much one can really do to either improve or to screw up frozen corn. It is what it is: butter-flavored frozen corn. If you've ever had frozen corn, you know exactly what this tastes like.
The Mashed Potatoes:
I know I lose foodie cred every time I say this, but I really do love "fake" or powdered mashed potatoes, including the ones in this frozen dinner. No, they don't really taste like the real thing, but they are smooth and creamy. Also salty...in fact, a little much on the salty side, but I still like it. Probably raised my blood pressure about fifty points, but what the hell. What fun is life if you can't be a daredevil, right?
The Cranberry Apple dessert:
Little chunks of apple and whole berries in a sweet gel. There is nothing remotely natural about it, but it is just good!
Overall this meal is salty, overly processed, and in the whole foodie scheme of things, not something that is likely to be reinterpreted by Daniel Boulud. But there is something about it that's comforting and good in an embarrassingly lowbrow, kitschy way. You know your favorite aunt who is very sweet-natured and kind, but there's no way to get around the fact that she's also a complete idiot? Well, this might be her food equivalent.
It's okay to like this. You just need to be circumspect about whom you admit it to.