Sunday, December 10, 2006

Cafeteria Eatin' at... IKEA!?

IKEA is just an amazing place, isn't it? Most states have none; we have two in Maryland, one in White Marsh (the "Baltimore" location) and one in College Park. I found myself at the College Park IKEA today, looking for some storage bins and things like that. And of course, a guy gets hungry doing all that roaming through that maze of fake apartments, houses and offices. I mean, damn, the place is exhausting to navigate around!

It was also exhausting to keep five steps ahead of the steady-moving Saint Lucia's procession that was moving around the upper floor of the IKEA. St. Lucy's is the holiday that starts the official Christmas season in Sweden. Lots of teenage girls singing Sankta Lucia, and in lieu of the traditional girl child serving her family baked goods and coffee on the morning of the 13th, a bored employee whose only recommendation of the Glögg she was peddling was "I haven't tried it." Geez, thanks for the enthusiasm.

IKEA, believe it or not, has a cafeteria. A surprisingly cheap cafeteria with surprisingly tasty food. And the only place in Maryland I know of that sells what can actually be called Swedish food. I thought I would bypass the obligatory hot dogs and french fries (no hamburgers, and should you really bother with fried chicken from a basically Swedish cafeteria? I'm just sayin'...). Instead, I went for what I thought was relatively Swedish: meatballs! A small order of meatballs - pinball-sized meatballs - gets you ten for $4.25. That includes the tasty gravy, two red potatoes and a spoon of stewed lingonberries (those Swedes and their lingonberries). For a dessert I got the Daim Torte, a dense almond torte with cream and toffee inside and on top. To top it all off, the cake was only $1.75, and it was more than I could finish - not more than most people can finish, but more than I can. And to wash it all down, I was able to choose "authentic Swedish lingonberry drink" instead of Diet Pepsi, for $1.25. Why not? How easy is it to get lingonberry drink, anyway?

The food was appetizing and filling - all for less than $8. And that's good, because you'll need that extra money you saved from lunch in the mega-IKEA store. Granted, they have many inexpensive things, as well as their more expensive furniture. But it is way too difficult to get out of there with just one thing.

Oh, I also could not leave without some Glögg. Everybody, including myself, was saying it wrong. We all thought it was "glog" - turns out it's just "gloog" - with an /oo/ as in "mood." Turns out it was also pretty tasty. And to go with IKEA's non-alcoholic Glögg? Almonds and raisins - heated up in the Glögg. Yum!