In 1912 Clarence Birdseye, taxidermist and naturalist, was working in Labrador, Canada, enjoying the temperate climate of -40 degrees Fahrenheit. Birdseye took to ice fishing and discovered the fish he caught froze almost instantly as it hit the frigid air. What’s more, when thawed, the fish tasted fresh! Clarence learned this flash freezing created small ice crystals which preserved the meat without destroying the cells. This was a far cry better than contemporary freezing methods that were costly and left frozen foods mealy and unappetizing.
Birdseye, back at home in New York City, went to work to recreate this flash freezing process. In 1927 he applied for a patent for a new food freezing machine and soon after got to selling his new and improved frozen foods.
What seems crazy to our modern palate is that, at the time, frozen food was seen as a posh culinary choice. The 1920’s and ‘30’s hostesses proudly announced to her guests she was serving frozen foods at her dinner party. At the time, only those who could afford freezers could store the products which also cost more due to the needed temperature control from production to travel to storage in local shops. Birdseye began leasing grocery stores special freezers to display his products. All this lead to frozen fish and veggies being seen as fine dining.
Birdseye’s companies started advertising “June peas as gloriously green as any you will see next summer” which seems a tad lengthy, though totally delightful.
Post WWII people began buying freezers for their homes, making frozen foods more accessible to the masses. Food companies began offering frozen pizzas and eventually the classic TV dinner.
In the 1950s, Birds Eye, now owned by General Foods, introduced its popular slogan, “Sweet as the moment when the pod went POP”
In 1969, Birds Eye made history as it aired the first color TV commercial to run in the U.K., showcasing those peas in all their technicolor glory.
And, because we all love those vintage food ads, here you go: