Senior center not celebrating National TV Dinner Day

Happily we bask in this warm September sun, which illuminates all creatures. — Henry David Thoreau

At press time, volunteer cooks for Monday Munch on Sept. 11 and 18 were still deciding on menus, but it is safe to assume there will be no celebrations of National TV Dinner Day (which occurs every year on Sept. 10). The term “TV dinner” was coined in 1954 by C.A. Swanson & Sons, a food delivery business based in Omaha, Nebraska.

Carl Anton Svensson, born in Karlskrona, Sweden, came to the United States in 1896 at the age of 17. He arrived with a tag around his neck: “Carl Swanson, Swedish. Send me to Omaha. I speak no English.” Omaha was then a community of immigrant Swedish-Americans. Svensson died in 1949 and his sons took over the company.

That first TV dinner revolutionized the frozen food business. People who paid 98 cents for this item received turkey, gravy, cornbread stuffing, sweet potatoes and peas packaged in a foil-covered segmented aluminum tray contained in a cardboard box designed to look like a television set, complete with screen and knobs.

Linking this new food offering to TV was especially apt for the times because television, relatively new, was experiencing a surge in popularity.

One of the original trays designed for the first TV dinners is part of the pop culture artifacts collection in the National Museum of American History, along with Archie Bunker’s chair and Fonzie’s leather jacket.

These days, the Lowes Regency Hotel offers a $30 TV dinner: pot roast braised in Burgundian pinot noir. Andrew Rubin, the executive chef calls it comfort food that we can turn upscale. “These days comfort food is this hip, cool thing.”

For this hip, cool crowd, the partitioned trays are made of porcelain and other food choices include free range fried chicken and mac ’n’ cheese made of cheddar asiago with a Parmesan crust.

But all that is small potatoes compared to the British service that brings a special TV dinner to your front door, delivered in a bespoke aluminum case, handcuffed to a security guard. Inside, you’ll find salmon, scallops, turbot, oysters and lobster tails poached in Dom Pérignon; white Alba truffles; Beluga caviar. There’s 24-carat gold leaf crumb to garnish (because parsley is for peasants). The whole thing cost £314, or $514. Read more at

There is no charge for Monday Munch at the Charlotte Senior Center. A $5 donation is appreciated.

Age Well Meal pickup
Thursday, Sept.14, 10-11 a.m.
Swedish steak with mushroom sauce, seasoned penne pasta, chopped broccoli, wheat bread, vanilla fluff w/ blueberries and strawberries. Suggested Age Well donation is $5, but it is not required to receive a meal. Pay what you can, when you can. Remember: Registration is required by the prior Monday.

Age Well Meal Pickup
Thursday, Sept. 21, 10-11 a.m.
Turkey tetrazzini, Scandinavian vegetables, wheat dinner roll and a fruit cookie.

The Thursday, Sept. 21, Age Well Pickup Meal comes with an interesting story. Turkey Tetrazini, the main course, is named after Luisa Tetrazzini. The claim that this turkey and pasta casserole originated with this famed singer’s own recipe is debatable. But there is no myth in the declaration that this Italian opera star was legendary at the turn of the 20th century. Generous as well as flamboyant, she gained fame for her love affairs as well as her financial disputes. Her co-stars included Caruso when she sang in the world’s opera houses, and there’s a famous story involving her singing for free on city streets.

In 1910, involved in a contract dispute with Oscar Hammerstein, who wanted her to sing in New York, Luisa Tetrazzini gave a free outdoor Christmas Eve concert in San Francisco, saying it was a gift to the city she loved.

The San Francisco Chronicle offered a very colorful description of the event, including the info that Tetrazzini usually drank a quart of red wine with dinner before she sang. For the night of this concert the San Francisco police halted all traffic in the area of the event. The streetcars stopped running on Market Street, service on the Geary Street cable cars was halted and automobiles were forbidden downtown.

Reminder: School’s back in session, and even though students can enjoy a spectacular library at Charlotte Central School, they still need books to call their own. Be sure the kids you know take a look at the great collection at the Little Free Library for Kids, located at the Grange. This library is brought to kids with the help of the Friends of the Charlotte Senior Center and the Flying Pig, where the clerks are very knowledgeable and eager to help kids find books they will love.

And remember this: Rain or shine, grab your coat, and get your hat. Leave your worry on the doorstep. Monday Munch at the Charlotte Senior Center is always “On the Sunny Side of the Street.”

Here’s Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman and Peggy Lee.