Frozen food has been around since the Ice Age, but the TV dinner was born in the 1940s. There's a bit of a paternity dispute about exactly whose brainchild it was. Here are some of the inventors vying for the claim.

Frozen food has been around since the Ice Age, but the TV dinner was born in the 1940s. There's a bit of a paternity dispute about exactly whose brainchild it was. Here are some of the inventors vying for the claim.

Maxson Food Systems.

It's clear that Maxson made the earliest complete frozen meal in 1945. What's unclear is whether it should be considered a "TV dinner," since it was really the world's first airline food. Maxson's Strato-Plates came in a plastic tray with compartments for meat, veggies and potatoes and were reheated on planes to tide over hungry passengers. Sadly, Maxson's founder died and the company hit hard financial times before the dinners could make it to supermarkets.

Jack Fisher.

The FridgiDinners that Fisher came up with in the late 1940s looked more like the TV dinners of today, but they, too, were meant to be eaten somewhere other than in front of the TV. Fisher's idea was to sell FridgiDinners to taverns, so they wouldn't have to employ cooks to whip up bar food.

Quaker State Food Corporation.

As the 1940s came to a close, someone finally got frozen dinners into supermarkets, where they obviously belonged. By 1954, Albert and Meyer Bernstein - founders of Quaker State Foods - had sold more than 2.5 million of their bizarrely named One-Eyed Eskimo dinners on the East Coast.

Swanson.

In 1954, the large, well-known company Swanson introduced a product that looked a little like a One-Eyed Eskimo dinner, except it had a snazzier name that immediately captured the public's interest: TV Dinner. In fact, the guy who usually gets credit for the moniker is a salesman named Gerry Thomas, who's been inaugurated into the American Frozen Food Institute's Frozen Food Hall of Fame. Lore has it that in 1953, Swanson badly overestimated how many holiday turkeys it could sell and was stuck with a half-million pounds of frozen Thanksgiving leftovers. Thomas apparently took a tray, sectioned it into three compartments, and filled them with a turkey dinner and all the trimmings. He then suggested that the meals be named after another burgeoning trend, the TV.

Adapted from In The Beginning (HarperCollins), available at leading bookstores. For a daily dose of quirky fun visit MentalFloss.com and check out mental_floss magazine at your local newsstand.