The TV dinner was more than an easy meal. It was a cultural milestone that encapsulated the 1950s. Women who’d had a taste of the workforce during World War II had been recruited back to the home-making. But it was a position that no longer jived. Over the next decade, marriage rates went down, divorces went up, and the sale of prepackaged “TV dinners” skyrocketed–from zero to tens of millions in just a few years. The TV dinner, consumed in front of the television but actually named after its TV-like tray, was simulacrum for both home-cooked food and familial connection. It was a sour convenience that portended the women’s rights revolution to come.
So if there were a TV dinner of 2017, what would it be? Iftach Gazit, a design student at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, imagined this: a sous vide dinner, stewing in the hot water of a washing machine rather than an immersion circulator. First published on Dezeen, the meals are constructed from an inner plastic bag wrapped in an outer layer of Tyvek–the same waterproof material worn by doctors responding to Ebola outbreaks. It’s an evocative, functional prototype for easy eats in the world in which we live today.
“It is a statement,” says Gazit. “In this instance, it’s about the American dream that once was a suburban house with a wife, two kids, two cars, and all the appliances that you can dream about, [contrasted] to today’s reality, which is a 30 square foot apartment.” A TV dinner for today would need to address a post-subprime mortgage lending crisis, pre-microhousing world in which the very idea of a middle class is dissolving. And that dissolution is happening, ironically, in the age of Instagram and Pinterest, which raises our expectations of the Wednesday night meal in much the same way that Leave It To Beaver created false expectations of the midcentury family unit.
In this cultural time and space, the new oven or microwave is, to Gazit, a 24/7 laundromat where you can wash your clothes and, perhaps, cook a hot meal with the same technique you might enjoy at Per Se.
“It is feasible and with some trial and error you can achieve satisfying results,” Gazit says. Indeed, it’s well-documented that you can actually cook a sous vide salmon in your sink and a Ziploc bag, since the temperature of a hot water heater is right around the temperature of sous vide (each approximately 120 degrees). Gazit, however, didn’t test his invention with risky raw steak or poultry. He opted for spaghetti and green beans, sealed inside their own water.
Of course, Gazit’s vision will never be a commercial reality. But it invites a satisfying, revealing cognitive dissonance all the same.
“I think that this is the project’s charm; it stops you in your tracks,” Gazit says. “You’re first repulsed, then you have a laugh, and then, if you dig into it, you realize some deep truth about our world.” Namely, that spaghetti and green beans are probably both cooked best in a pot.