Would you believe that Thanksgiving dinner — a meal dedicated to home cooking, family time, and, well, being thankful — was directly responsible for the invention of the TV dinner, the ultimate manifestation of the solitary, processed meal? If you are a little suspicious of that fact, you’re not alone. But, the connection is real. Those little frozen meals on trays were the result of a Turkey Day mix-up of epic proportions.

The year was 1953. That fall, the frozen food company C.A. Swanson & Sons drastically overestimated howmany Americans would want a turkey as the centerpiece of their Thanksgiving spread, leaving themwith about 260 tons of extra turkey packed into 10 refrigerated railroad cars. They needed a way to sell this surplus quickly because they had to keep running the train cars back and forth between the East Coast and the Midwest to generate the electricity needed to keep the turkey from spoiling.