We went to Ikea for the Swedish meatballs

Last night, Amanda and I made a pit stop on our commute home at Ikea. We’ve been shopping around for a storage chest for our bedroom and an island for our kitchen. Ikea’s wealth of everything at reasonable prices made it a worthy consideration. The risk you always run with a place like Ikea is that you tend to leave with more than planned, or you leave with everything that you weren’t planning on buying at all. The store is designed that way, a maze of neat room ideas for every part of the home combined with the ease of shopping via pencil and paper so that you can’t feel the weight of your purchases until you hit the self-service register. There are no carts here, just a utilitarian shopping experience with a cafeteria in the middle.

Somehow, Amanda and I made it halfway through the maze without picking up or writing down anything. Compared to past experiences this was a remarkable feat! However, at 7 p.m. we couldn’t resist the fragrances offered by the cafeteria. “Cafeteria” is a probably the wrong word because it surfaces memories of a high school lunchroom and Salisbury steak. Cafeterias by European design are more “Café” than “teria.” I patronized many of these during my European travels, and Ikea keeps true to form in its Swedish presentation. It’s no gimmick, but they do sell Salisbury steak.

The signature entrée at Ikea is the Swedish Meatballs, for something like $3.99 you get a small mountain of meatballs, mashed potatoes and lingonberries (basically cranberries). Amanda and I went for them. When in Rome, right? We also bought some very traditional Swedish Fish to keep the entire meal authentic. Amanda has requested that we go out to eat more often, and boy did she get her wish!

We sat at one of the cafeteria tables and dug in. The food was good enough for a total $11 meal. I couldn’t help but fast-forward 50 years and imagine Amanda and I sitting across from each other in a very similar environment, eating cafeteria food at some futuristic retirement home. That’s really what the experience felt like – a Wall-E-esque future when everyone becomes passive and automated and I sit to eat in a too clean dining room only pleasing to obsessive compulsives, which is everyone by 2060.

It was a little scary to think of a corporate, ubiquitous future like that, but then again the Swedish meatballs weren’t half bad. Wherever my kids put me up, I won’t complain if the food is OK.

We finished our meal and walked the rest of Ikea with our wallets unscathed with the exception of a small houseplant to replace the dying one in our kitchen that we bought from Ikea last year. Everything’s a cycle.

My stomach bloated with Swedish meatballs, we headed home where the scene isn’t so sharply perfect, but it’s a little more comfortable and the Italian meatballs taste better.