Frozen Food Lies: A Shiny, Gooshy Mess in a Box

SmartOnes Lasagna Florentine
Smart Ones Lasagna Florentine on the box
As The Stir learned from photographing fast food in real life, an artful food designer and good studio lighting work wonders on a couple of pieces of lettuce and some shredded chicken. Because those pretty pictures don't always live up to their promise, here's a similar experiment with frozen entrees.

How do the real TV dinners hold up to the ideal? I started with this Smart Ones Lasagna Florentine. Keep reading to see the real deal.





Lasagna Florentine in real life
Lasagna Florentine in real life
Okay, I tried to plate this so we could get a side view of the layers. As you can see, the lasagna gooshed all over the plate, as lasagna will. Actually, this looks somewhat homemade, minus the green sauce.








Lasagna Florentine in real lifeI do see layers in there. Sorta. Still, it's a lot shorter in real life, kind of like most male movie stars.








Healthy Choice Honey Ginger Chicken
Marie Callender's Fettuccini with Chicken & Broccoli on the box
Moving along with the pasta, here's Marie Callender's Fettuccini With Chicken and Broccoli. This photo makes the broccoli look fresh and perfectly cooked.







fettuccini with chicken & broccoli
Fettuccini in real life

After the lasagna debacle, I decided that I really don't do this food any favors when I plate it. I'm pleased to see the broccoli isn't overcooked to the point of going yellow. It's hard to see the chicken under all that sauce, but it's there. In real life it looks like everything is drowning in glue-like sauce. Stirring didn't make it look any better.



Healthy Choice Honey Ginger Chicken
Healthy Choice Honey Ginger Chicken on the box



Ever notice how shiny food always looks on frozen entree boxes? Cue Healthy Choice Honey Ginger Chicken.








Healthy Choice Honey Ginger Chicken
Honey Ginger Chicken in real life


I'm reminded of that Woody Allen quote: "'Boy, the food at this place is really terrible ... and such small portions!"








Lean Pockets Supreme Pizza
Lean Pockets Supreme Pizza on the box


"Seasoned Pizza Crust" -- oh Lean Pockets, there you go over-promising your Supreme Pizza. And look at the steam rising from the pocket. How do you Photoshop steam, I wonder? I decided to risk another cross-section shot.







Lean Pockets Supreme Pizza
Pizza Pocket in real life




Not even close! I don't see the sausage or the pepperoni, though they're probably there somewhere. I see less cheese, and the colors are completely the different. But hey, the crust really is seasoned.






Lean Cuisine Rosemary Chicken
Lean Cuisine Rosemary Chicken on the box



I just want to point out a few things here with Lean Cuisine's Rosemary Chicken. First, shiny again! Also, the "whole wheat pilaf" is orzo, but they don't think you'll know what orzo is so they put it in tiny print on the back. And speaking of tiny print, I think they include the wrong set of ingredients! There's no mention of rosemary; instead it lists ginger and lemon for flavoring.



Lean Cuisine Rosemary Chicken
Rosemary Chicken in real life




So yeah ... the chicken lacks that shellacked look, but maybe that's a good thing?






Can I say something here about the food styling on these boxes? Because the food in real life doesn't look great, but it doesn't look delicious on the boxes, either. Food photography has come a long way since 1985. Pick up any food magazine today and it all looks warm, real, homemade. But the food on these boxes looks fake. Why are food manufacturers trying to entice us with plastic-looking food?


What do you think frozen entrees should look like?

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