Tuesday, January 26, 2010

My children LOVE Ikea. They actually sing-chant "let's go to I-KEY-A, let's go to I-KEY-A, let's go to I-KEY-A..." as we drive towards the sprawling megalith that is Ikea Portland.

When I ask the girls if they would like to go out for a nice dinner they say yeah! ...and then they choose IKEA. (Generally they get overruled - but not always.) The appeal largely seems to be in form...not so much in culinary mastery. The format of a line - cafeteria style - where you have a tray and multitudes of food choices laid out before you. There is a sense of ownership in choosing what you will eat from a vast number of offerings that a child - at least my children - do not get at home. "I declare this piece of Triple Chocolate Overload Cake to be mine!" Ikea marketers are not dummies - dessert is displayed first and while you are still busy getting the trays and silverware the kids reach out and put that chocolate mountain smack in the middle of their tray. The ingenious Z formation of the line behind you makes it nearly impossible to tell your child to "put that back" because everyone behind you has seen your child touch it already. Still if you choose to battle with them the conversation and parenting style you choose to engage in to loosen the cake from their grip is presented for critique by your Z formation audience. At least it gives them all something to do while they stand there waiting for their meatballs.

After a nice dinner watching the planes land at the Portland international airport from the floor to ceiling windows in the dining area at IKEA we head over to the toy area. This is the one place in all of Portland besides the Irvington COOP Preschool resale event that every mother needs to stay as far away from as humanly possible. Here we find mountainous bins of - not even sure I can type the words - ugh, give me strength - stuffed animals. I am too weak to even type more on this taboo topic. Enough said.

I have more of a love hate relationship with the place. I love that it occupies and feeds my children for hours on a rainy day however I always seem to find a wonderful something for my home that I just cannot leave behind because - and this is the hate part - it might not be there the next time you go. The Swedes do not get enough credit for their ingenious marketing strategies - you have to buy it and buy it today because it may not be here tomorrow. This fact is exponentially true if you really really like it and could use it someday in the future but it is not really essential for you to have today. Take the set of 6 extra teaspoons in the pattern that nearly matches my regular silverware. It would come in so handy when we have guests. Who knows when that will be. The set costs only $10 but I just got the quarterly water bill and now is just not a good time to be spending any extra. BUT I guarantee they will pull that silverware from the stock as soon as I walk out the door and later this summer when untold masses of people arrive for fun in the Pacific NW I will be demonstrating that Portland is not really that green as I serve my Baja Chicken Tortilla soup with plastic spoons because I chose to walk out of IKEA one day without an impulse purchase.

If your
Kids are happy
Eating meatballs
At Ikea - they will love this recipe...

Swedish Meatballs my Auntie Maryellen Used to Make
(Really there were no measurements with this recipe when it was given to me. I have given some of my estimates but they depend a bit on how many meatballs you plan to make - take the chance, it is worth it!)
Mix & Form Meatballs with:
1lb Ground Beef
3/4 cup breadcrumbs
Onion chopped fine or grated, (about half of small to medium yellow onions)
1 Egg
1/2 cup Milk
Nutmeg (about 1/4 teas.)

Brown meatballs on all sides in high sided skillet, add 2-3 cups beef broth and about 1 cup red wine and simmer until meatballs are cooked and sauce has reduced and thickened a bit. Remove meatballs before serving and add a whole container of sour cream to pan sauce. Whisk until incorporated and rewarmed and then pour over meatballs and serve with wide egg noodles.

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