TV dinner innovator Gerry Thomas displays a present day version of his invention at his home Oct. 25, 1999, in Paradise Valley, Ariz. This year, as Swanson celebrates the 45th anniversary of the archetypal home meal of convenience, the 77-year-old Thomas is getting added recognition. He's had his hand prints and four-compartment aluminum tray immortalized in concrete on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Thomas already is enshrined in the Frozen Food Hall of Fame in Orlando, Fla., and one of his original trays is on display in the Smithsonian. (AP Photo/Mike Fiala)

FERN’s Friday Feed: Tastes like nostalgia

Welcome to FERN’s Friday Feed (#FFF), where we share the stories from this week that made us stop and think.

TV dinners, back to the future


“With restaurants closed during Covid-19, Americans are again snapping up frozen meals, spending nearly 50 percent more on them in April 2020 over April 2019, says the American Frozen Food Institute. Specialty stores like Williams Sonoma now stock gourmet TV dinners. Ipsa Provisions, a high-end frozen-food company launched this past February in New York, specializes in ‘artisanal frozen dishes for a civilized meal any night of the week’—a slogan right out of the 1950s,” writes Kovie Biakolo. “To many Americans, the TV dinner tastes like nostalgia; to others, it still tastes like the future.”

Rural voters want a candidate who will take on Big Ag

FERN and The Nation

From meatpackers to seed companies, farm equipment to agrochemicals, the agriculture industry has become increasingly concentrated, leaving farmers with few options when it comes to buying inputs or selling their commodities. This has also become a potent political issue in rural areas, but one that Democrats have failed to capitalize on in the current election cycle, writes Brian Barth in FERN’s latest story.

The borscht war

The Washington Post

Chef Ievgen Klopotenko “fired the equivalent of a gastronomic cannon shot” when he launched “an effort to have borscht recognized as part of Ukraine’s cultural heritage by the United Nations’ cultural agency,” write David L. Stern and Robyn Dixon. “To the uninitiated, borscht is a humble, reddish beet soup, often served with a generous dollop of sour cream on top. But in its simplicity is a cultural significance that transcends borders.”

This marsupial may have been the world’s first livestock

Atlas Obscura

New research suggests that, “[t]housands of years before plants were domesticated in New Guinea, people were managing cuscus populations,” writes Manvir Singh. “Cuscus translocation is arguably the oldest-known example of animal management in history, preceding not only the Agricultural Revolution, but the earliest evidence of pig, cow, and sheep cultivation, as well. Since they were probably owned and traded, cuscuses may even represent the first livestock in documented history, although some archaeologists restrict the label to fully domesticated animals.”

Why are food allergies rising around the world?


Reviewing data from multiple peer-reviewed sources, Kari Nadeau, a Stanford University allergy specialist, “says that the rate of food allergies worldwide has increased from around 3% of the population in 1960 to around 7% in 2018. And it isn’t just the rate that has increased. The range of foods to which people are allergic has also widened. ‘Initially, decades ago, it was only the classical ones: seafood, milk and nuts,’ says Peter Ben Embarek, of the International Food Safety Authorities Network. ‘That has expanded dramatically to a whole range of products now.’ Experts agree that food allergies are on the rise. The question is, what explains it?”