There are many meals that we may enjoy but very few of them have the history and longevity of a frozen TV dinner. I’m not necessarily talking about how long one of these dinners will last in the freezer under the right conditions, I’m talking about the history of the meal.

As it turns out, we have been lied to for quite some time. According to Weird Food History, Swanson and other brands say that they invented the TV dinner, but they made that claim in 1953 and the TV dinner predates it by a number of years.

Photo: YouTube/Weird History Food

It was a New Jersey veteran named William L Maxson who came up with the first idea for freezing dinner and reheating it at some point in the future. He had cauliflower in his garden and he couldn’t eat all of it, so he froze it when he ate it a year later, it was delicious.

Being somewhat of an entrepreneur at heart, Maxson knew that he was onto something. He went to the Naval Air Transport Service, wanting to share his prepackaged frozen meals and it wasn’t long before things caught on.

Photo: YouTube/Weird History Food

Navy officials were more than happy to share the compact meals on their aircraft carriers. It would replace the canned mystery meat and cereals that were often handed out to enlisted personnel and provide them with a hot meal that looked and tasted like it was homemade.

The timing was also great because it was just before World War II, so these meals were very popular during that time. After the war, however, Maxson continued to reinvent the meals and go to the private sector. At this time, he was targeting the airlines.

Photo: YouTube/Weird History Food

They were not necessarily known as TV dinners but the frozen plates were known as Sky Plates and were served on Pan Am Airways. Maxim also designed a makeshift air fryer that allowed them to be defrosted and heated on the plane.

Because of their popularity, many people wanted to take them home, and in 1946, the Sky Plate became known as the Strato-Meal.

It wasn’t long before a variety of competitors started to throw these at the market and some of them even took credit for the invention. It’s a matter of history, however, and for anyone who is interested in looking into it, Maxim is the real inventor of the TV dinner.

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