TV dinners are examples of Fantasy vs. Reality.

Anne and I work on different shifts—I’m mornings and she’s afternoons—and have different days off so there’s only three days out of the week that we see each other in a conscious state (read: when one or the other isn’t asleep in bed already). This means that I have to fend for myself for dinner on the four nights that she’s working and while I’m quite capable of cooking I am a bit out of practice. Anne has tried to make it easy on me by buying TV dinners that can be tossed into the microwave. It was while preparing one the other night that it struck me what a great example of Fantasy versus Reality these are. The meal in question wasn’t a particularly amazing one to begin with, a frozen Banquet brand Chicken Fingers meal, but the picture on the box made it look pretty good:

The Fantasy. Click to embiggen!

Not too shabby. Sure the chicken fingers look like cardboard, but the mac and cheese looks fairly appetizing and that brownie is damn near perfect. Still, I’m an intelligent guy. It’s clear someone went through a lot of trouble to arrange that food in such a way as to make it look as appealing as possible. I’m not so credulous to expect that the reality will be close to what’s being depicted on that box.

That said I still wasn’t prepared to face the reality of the actual product after being through my microwave. Here’s what I sat down to eat:

The Ugly Reality. Click to embiggen! If you DARE!

Holy crap on a cracker! What the fuck is that shit? OK, the chicken fingers are at least recognizable. Somehow they manage to look even more unappetizing than they do on the box, but at least I can tell what they are. The mac and cheese looks like some sort of industrial byproduct that might come to life and claw its way out of the little plastic serving tray, but it too is recognizable. That brownie, though.

My first thought was: Who the hell shit in my Banquet Chicken Fingers dinner when I wasn’t looking? I mean WTF? It was almost enough to make me not eat it, but as it turns out that fucking disgusting brownie was arguably the best tasting thing on that little tray. The chicken fingers themselves tasted like soggy cardboard with a ton too much of salt on them, and that comes from someone who loves his salt. The mac and cheese tasted like vaguely indeterminate “cheeze” flavored rubber. The brownie tasted like a brownie, albeit one made with cement, but a brownie just the same.

Even for someone who’s smart enough to realize the box is an impossible vision dreamed up by an over-paid marketing department that could never be matched in reality, facing that reality was more than a little disappointing. You’d like to believe that the box art is at least a fair approximation of the final product, but it’s almost always far from it. It just amazed me how far from it it really is.