"In the beginning there was fire, and it was good. And the fire was harnessed into hearths, followed by stoves, and it was better. Then came gas, electricity and finally, microwave ovens," Sam Gugino of the 'San Jose Mercury News' remarked. "Is a microwave for you?" Elaine Tait of 'Knight-Ridder Newspapers' asked. "Microwaving is a good idea for the person who has very little time to cook, but is somewhat pointless for older folks with time on their hands." 

In 1954, the Swanson family in Omaha, Nebraska launched the first "TV dinners" - already-made frozen dinner suitable for eating in front of the television. By 1987, Damon Adams of 'The Anniston Star' noted, "As society discovers more ways to save time and relies on convenience, the upscale version of the old TV dinner is sure to remain a constant in microwaves and ovens in American today and tomorrow." 

To clarify, "Unlike fresh foods, frozen foods are of consistent quality. A package of string beans purchased in New York has the exact taste and nutritional quality as the same brand purchased in Los Angeles. Frozen foods have no additives or preservatives. Except for prepared foods, such as vegetables in sauces, frozen foods are packaged in their natural state. No salt, sugar, vitamins, minerals or other additives are used. The freezing process itself is the only preservative needed." 

As people became more convenience-oriented, especially with over half of the American mothers working outside the home, frozen dinners (or microwave dinners) were as good as mom's meals from scratch. According to Dick Fralick of the National Frozen Food Association, TV dinner sales totaled $597 million in 1975. By 1983, sales were $926 million. In 1985, sales reportedly "skyrocketed to more than $1 billion." Dick Fralick pointed out, "If you look at the number of calories and nutrition (in frozen dinners), they are what you should be getting. If you want to know what you're getting, just look at the (nutrition profile) on the box."

"Too new to find in dictionaries, the word divides two camps of grammar. It also graphically illustrates the confusion, excitement and the big bucks associated with the wonder appliance of the 1980s," Patricia Tennison of the 'Chicago Tribune' reported in 1987. "In 10 short years, the microwave oven has evolved from an expensive toy to an affordable ally. It is now more common in American homes than a dishwasher, toaster oven or videocassette recorder. At least 60% – and some say 70% – of American households own a microwave oven. That's more than the 50% who have a dishwasher. 

"Once microwave oven owners learn to cook a few dishes, they tend to become crusaders, according to microwave cooking teacher, Karen Haas. About 91% of microwave oven owners do most with their machines is reheat food prepared from scratch and about 76% defrost food to be prepared in a regular oven, according to the May 1987 Gallup Monthly Report on Eating Out. Only 33% of microwave oven owners ever have used their ovens to cook a complete meal from scratch."   

Elaine Howard of MRCA Information Services explained, "Microwave ovens have revolutionized cooking habits – and that's not an overstatement." Jim Hope of the Anniston Super Valu added, "The low-calorie dinners are really hot because people are concerned about their weight. And with the pace of today (in 1987), people put a bigger value on their time … Our biggest growing area (in the store) is frozen foods." Susan Hanley of ConAgra Frozen Foods stated, "It's (frozen dinners) really a science."

Dinners such as chicken cacciatore in tomato sauce with green peppers, onions and mushrooms, and flounder vin blanc in white wine sauce with red skin potato wedges sprinkled with sweet red and green peppers and parslied baby carrots; or yesterday simple Salisbury steak and plain potatoes became today firecracker chicken marinated in spicy sauce with Oriental-style vegetables and peanuts and rice with egg and broccoli; beef sirloin tips came in rich mushroom and wine gray with potatoes and broccoli appeared in a creamy Cheddar cheese sauce; and scallops Florentine were tender scallops on a bed of spinach, topped with a rich, creamy sauce, served with tender-crisp baby carrots and white and wild rice. 

Eula Boardman told Valerie Coyle in 1989, "I began working with microwave cooking in 1974 and I've given many seminars across the country on the subject. I'm a new Texan (moved to Kerrville in 1988) but I sincerely believe that the Texas Hill Country is the prime tourist area of not just Texas, but the entire United States. It needs to be promoted, though, and that's what I'm trying to do with this book. ('Eula’s Microwave Cooking Basics'). 

"There are many restaurants in the book and not all of them are elegant, expensive places either. We have a lot of little barbecue restaurants in the Hill Country that serve wonderful food. I brought home samples of barbecue sauce from the different restaurants and conducted a comparison taste test in my kitchen. It was amazing how different the flavors were. I've told them where they can buy our delicious Hill Country prepared foods and produce, and also how they can store it to take it home safely."

Blog Archive