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Holiday Memories: TV dinners became the ‘special meal’ on one Easter – Leader |

Holiday Memories: TV dinners became the ‘special meal’ on one Easter – Leader



My mom made every holiday a special one: window decorations, the “good dishes” — in the 1960s and ‘70s, the set of dinnerware she purchased from the Farmer Store in Eau Claire a piece or two at a time, set on a lace tablecloth for the major holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve and Easter,) centerpieces for the dinner table, and, of course, a special meal. This proud “full-blooded Norwegian” even made corned beef dinner for St. Patrick’s Day because my dad, my brother and I were part Irish. She did refuse to wear anything green on that day, though. She had to draw the line at some point.

Back in the 1950s and the early 1960s, there were no or few fast-food places. Restaurant dining was too expensive to do very often, and the pre-packaged, instant-cook foods had not yet been invented or were too expensive to use. I often think about how difficult it must have been for those women (and the men who were in charge of the meals back then) to plan and cook meals every single day, and I do understand how exciting it must have been for them when the TV dinner was introduced. Finally, a much simpler way to prepare a meal for the family every so often.

And this leads us to the one exception to the “special meal” part of our holiday traditions. One spring, after TV dinners had been in the store freezers for awhile, mom decided that the “special meal” for Easter would consist of ham TV dinners. She would be able to attend church, come home and relax and not worry about cooking that day.

We arrived home from Easter Services at our church and changed out of our Easter outfits, but this Easter was different from that point on. There was no “baking ham” aroma filling the house, no pots bubbling on the stove, no special dishes on the table. The TV dinners, in their metal trays, went into the oven, came out of the oven, were placed on the table and we ate them with a lot less enthusiasm than mom had when she’d come up with this great idea. Short and not so sweet. And there were no leftovers.

That was the only time we had anything but wonderful, home-cooked food for any of the holidays. As mom got older, my brother Tom and I helped her prepare the meals, and I eventually took over all of the cooking, but she still insisted on helping in some way, even if it was only to decide which tablecloth should be used.

Mom is no longer with us. She passed away at the age of 97, shortly before Easter this past year, but we’re doing our best to continue her enthusiasm for the holidays and to make each one special. And the one rule: no TV dinners!

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