Tuesdays, Twinkies, Teflon, and TV Dinners…

There are a lot of people who don’t like Mondays.  I have issues with Tuesdays…it seems that if anything bad is going to happen to me, it always occurs on a Tuesday: bad hair days, arguments, missing the bus, being splashed by passing cars…it all happens on Tuesdays!  I’ve even coined a term for days when I can’t seem to get out of my own way…I call it, “having a Tuesday.”  Today, I sat down at the computer with no clear idea of what I was going to write about…until I made my daily visit to the Today in History website. 

Every morning, I go to the site to find an event from history that I can tie to one of the books in our bookstore…it’s a marketing thing: I put the event and a link to the book on our Facebook fan page, and hopefully, it encourages people to either come to the store or visit our website.  I like to think it’s effective…I keep doing it anyway!

It seems that April 6th was a prolific day for inventors.  There were at least three things invented on that day which changed the course of American society (I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether the inventions were good or bad):

1. TWINKIES – These were invented in 1930 by baker, James A. Dewar, in Schiller Park, Illinois.  The original product was filled with banana cream, but with bananas being rationed during World War II, Hostess switched to vanilla cream.  The change was so popular that they stuck with it.  Contrary to a popular urban legend, Twinkies don’t last forever.  According to an article on wikipedia.org, they have a shelf life of 25 days or so due to the fact that they don’t contain dairy products. 

My own exposure to Twinkies was limited…my parents didn’t buy them (probably a wise decision, in retrospect).  However, I remember being at a friend’s house when I was about six, and being so jealous of the seemingly endless supply of Twinkies there.  I ate as many as I could when we visited.  I also discovered how difficult it was to ride a bike and eat a Twinkie at the same time!


2. TEFLON – The invention of Teflon in 1938 came about because of an accident.  Ohio-born scientist Dr. Roy J. Plunkett was experimenting with Freon at the DuPont Chemical Co. lab in Deepwater, New Jersey.  When a cylinder of a gas known as TFE failed to discharge when opened, Plunkett decided to cut it open to see what had gone wrong.  Inside was a white powder which was more slippery than graphite, and had an extremely high melting point.  At first, Teflon was used in machine parts for the military and factories.  In the early 1960’s, the first Teflon non-stick cookware came out. 

I remember the TV commercials for it – the T-Fal skillet with the woman sliding the fried egg right out on to the plate!  My mom got a T-Fal skillet.  She was a good cook, but she liked to cook everything at high temperatures – Mom fried the Teflon coating right off the pan!  The food ended up sticking anyway…

T-Fal cookbook c. 1974

3. TV DINNERS – The first TV dinners were marketed by Swanson and Sons in 1954.  The original meal was a Thanksgiving meal of turkey, cornbread dressing, frozen peas and sweet potatoes.  They sold for 98 cents, which was a lot of money in 1954!  More than 10 million dinners were sold during the first year of production (original production estimate was 5000).  The meal came in a foil tray, which one popped in the oven for 25 minutes at 425 degrees.  One could then sit down and watch a show on the “boob tube” while eating dinner out of the same foil tray!

We hardly ever had TV dinners at our house (we were only allowed to watch an hour of TV a day), but I liked them because the vegetables were frozen – not the canned stuff my mom was trying to feed us at the time.  My favourite was the Swiss steak one…although I much preferred my Grandad Thompson’s version of Swiss steak!

Vintage ad for Swanson Swiss Steak Dinner...

So, my hair came out all right, I haven’t argued with anyone yet, I don’t have to take a bus, and it’s not raining, so I’m unlikely to be splashed by a passing car…my Tuesday has been okay so far.  And you learned something you probably didn’t know.  My job here is done…

P.S. For the record, I don’t buy Twinkies or TV dinners, but I love non-stick cookware!


Filed under memories

8 responses to “Tuesdays, Twinkies, Teflon, and TV Dinners…

  1. planejaner

    oh–just looking at the Twinkies made me want to be ill…I am still coming off too much sugar over the weekend…and that picture brought it all back to me! Have a wonderful remainder to your Tuesday.

  2. Sorry, Jane…I had no idea about your weekend indulgences when I posted!


  3. So if Swanson’s introduced TV dinners in ’54, I guess my Mom was pretty cutting edge to be feeding them to us in ’57. hmmmm…she has always been ahead of the game…

  4. I used to BEG for those tv dinners and broccoli out of a box- none of that home made stuff my mom would make. She would relent and give us boxed broccoli as a “special treat” when she and my Dad would go out. Seeing that picture made my mouth water.

    • You’re lucky, amblerangel…the vegetables in TV dinners were only peas or corn when I was a kid…I would have loved to have broccoli! Glad the piece brought back good memories for you! Do they have TV dinners in Japan? Wendy

  5. It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d certainly donate to this brilliant blog!

    I suppose for now i’ll settle for book-marking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account.
    I look forward to new updates and will share this blog with
    my Facebook group. Talk soon!

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