For the Love of Ikea

I miss Sweden. I’ll be the first to admit it. The little things, the food, and I only lived in the country for 2 years!

Well, I know Ikea has some awesome Swedish things. But I am not a fan of Ikea. I don’t like the maze they make you walk through, and how you want to go shopping for 2 items but you end up spending 3 hours there. Not cool! Last time I was in Ikea (and I’ve never been to one in Sweden mind you), I even got lost in the parking lot!

Ikea Phoenix

Then came the need to buy some furniture, and Ikea definitely had the cheapest. So I decided to bite the bullet and go into the store. I started thinking to myself how awful this was going to be. Then I realized that did not have to be the case.

Ikea Buys

I decided right then and there to play a game. How quickly could I get in and out of Ikea and purchase the 3 items I needed: two side tables, and a lamp.

I got out of my car at 8pm. Time to play!

Luckily, there was a map, and the people at this Ikea in Arizona were super helpful, directing me where I needed to go to get my items. I was quickly able to pick up my items and check out.

While I have never been at an Ikea in Sweden, it still reminded me of Sweden. The furniture reminded me of all my friends’ homes, and the blue and yellow reminded me of the proud Swedish flags that were readily visible in Sweden. I wanted to say “Tack” so many times and start speaking Swedish!

Instead, I stuck to “Hej!” since it is pretty close to “Hey!” and Americans don’t know the difference :)

I was on a major roll with my timing, but I couldn’t skip the Swedish food section at the end. Oh my, the beautiful items! So many Swedish treats, from cakes to sylt to cheese! Vasterbotten ost to be exact!

I was in heaven. But I was also playing a game. So I got the essentials. Cheese and lingonberry sylt. And I left.

Time? 8:22pm. Yep, in and out in 22 minutes, plus I went food shopping.

I rule. So does Ikea.

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Horsing Around

Horsing around

During the last few weeks, there have been findings of horsemeat in frozen food, labeled beef, in many European countries. This has upset a lot of people, created large headlines, and forced producers to withdraw large quantities of frozen and canned food, such as meatballs, sausages, meat pies, pasta sauces, lasagne, etc. Thousands of microwave dishes have been DNA-tested to establish what kind of meat that has been used.

The red Dalecarlian horse, sometimes used as a symbol for Sweden, is a traditional toy/trinket that has been manufactured in the province Dalarna since the 17th century.

The red Dalecarlian horse, sometimes used as a symbol for Sweden, is a traditional toy/trinket that has been manufactured in the province Dalarna since the 17th century.

One of the companies that have been hit is Swedish IKEA, which has been serving “Swedish meatballs” with lingonberry jam in its inhouse restaurants in almost every country in the world. But stay calm: meatballs will be back on the menu again after a meatball moratorium to find another, horse-free, food supplier.

Horse meat labeled beef has also been found in England, France, Ireland, Poland… triggering furious outcry. A different but really big problem turned up for a food producer in Iceland. One of its main products, a meat pie, containing 30% ground beef according to the list of ingredients, caused a problem in the lab. Testing for horse DNA, they couldn’t find any substance at all of animal origin in the meat pies… The owner of the factory is still trying to figure out how the typo in the label went undetected for so long… “Meat Pie”. (?)

The main problem with the horse meat is of course not the horse meat itself – most reputable chefs mean that fillet of horse tastes better than fillet of beef, and has a higher nutritional value – the real problem is that you can’t trust the label. This is a serious problem that needs serious attention, justifying the ongoing investigations.

(A questionable side effect of this is that thousands of tons of perfectly good food are withdrawn and incinerated because the label is wrong.)

Now there are of course people who refuse to eat horse for various reasons. Some are horse owners, attached to their big pet/companion. Others have less clear reasons, such as considering horses to be in the same league as dogs and cats – you just don’t eat dogs. Or horses. You eat cows, pigs, chicken and turkey.


Horses were important in the old Norse religion and mythology, which didn’t prevent them from being sacrificed and finally eaten during the big midwinter feast.   This carving on an ”image stone” in Gotland depicts Sleipner, Oden’s big grey eight-legged horse who was faster than the wind.

Horses were important in the old Norse religion and mythology, which didn’t prevent them from being sacrificed and finally eaten during the big midwinter feast.
This carving on an ”image stone” in Gotland depicts Sleipner, Oden’s grey eight-legged horse who was faster than the wind.

But why not horses? The reason goes back to 732 AD, and the name of the reason was Gregorius II, occupation: pope. Christianity was fighting its way up in Europe, and one problem on its way was that people in northern Europe, including Sweden, didn’t want to forsake their great pagan feasts, with an abundance of beer and huge steaks. Horse steaks, that is. The pope realized that he couldn’t forbid beer – if he did, he would have to forbid wine as well, and the people in Italy would make sure that his days in the Vatican were ended very soon. But he could ban horse steaks, since they weren’t so common in Italy anyway. So he did.

Appointing the missionary Bonifacius to archbishop of Mainz (Germany), the pope Gregorius II also instructed the new archbishop to forbid eating of horsemeat. The Catholic ban on horsemeat persisted some 800 years, until Martin Luther et al broke free from the Catholic Church. However, since people weren’t used to cook horse, it was regarded with suspicion and never became a big success. And the demand has been continuingly low until today, even if horsemeat has been available, at least in some butcheries.

One funny thing though is the fact that in Sweden, after the last few weeks’ horsemeat scandal, the demand for tenderloin and steaks from horse has grown. I would say for good reasons: there’s no better meat than fillet of horse…

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An Italians Very First Swedish Experience: Raduno IKEA

Like a woodpecker, Sweden started hitting my head a long time ago.

And like a cancer, it started as a little curiosity which became this new adventure I’m about to live.

I’d like to write “about” Sweden but I have a very big flaw…I haven’t been there yet! :-)

My name is Alessio and I’m the biggest Swedish Freak within Italy… why would I say that?

Because I’m the only Italian who can actually förstår en lite svenska (understands some Swedish) just by studying that on my own even without having spoken to any Swedish native speaker yet.

I’m just trying to recall the face that my last Norwegian roommate made to me when after introducing myself to him I said “talar du svenska?”. Yep, he was surprised. He tried to help me with the language but… I just confused myself creating a new language that I called norwedish… or swegian if you prefer. 😉

I live in the beautiful city of Rome, and when people ask me “where exactly?” I reply “near the new IKEA”.

Yes, because other than being the favourite place for Italians during the weekend, IKEA is also a very good point of reference when explaining to people where I live… since I’m a little bit far from the center.


via wikipedia

And there’s another fun fact about IKEA which I’d like to write you about…

Do you know what the “Raduno IKEA” or “IKEA gathering” used to be in the Roman underground culture?

You could guess it was something about people being passionate about furniture but you are wrong… it actually used to be related to people passionate about cars!

Yep, because the “IKEA gathering”, in Rome, used to be a huge meeting during nightime in the IKEA (huge) parking lot of tuned-up cars.

Do you remember the scene from “Fast & Furious” where people gather for some illegal street racing? It used to be quite like that (actually with a little less girls, since I’ve been there a couple times and I haven’t seen many of them).

Unfortunately there was a bad accident between a car and a motorbike and the police decided to intervene and the gathering ended for a while.

I remember one of the first times I went for lunch to the IKEA near my house, at the time I did not know one day I would decide to go to Sweden… but I was quite impressed when I read on a wall about the “right of access” also known as “Allemansrätt” in Swedish.

I already loved wildlife and I though that that was a very good thing about Sweden, there is nothing closer in the Italian culture than paying for a camping spot!

I hope with my articles and the blog to understand more about the Swedish culture, because at the moment for the Italians the knowledge stops at the “Raduno Ikea”. 😉

Här står jag Swedish Freaks!

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