If you want to see a what a human head looks like when it explodes, there’s no reason to waste your money on tickets to the latest Mel Gibson movie.
Just take me to Ikea.
At first, it seems the shopping day is going to be a lot of fun as you prepare for the big trip, flipping through that cheery Ikea catalog featuring handsome Scandinavian families in sun-splashed Ikea homes: making dinner in their BRANJELLËENA kitchen, happily working away at their SKÅRI LARIKINGG desk, and tucking the kids in for the night between their FØRSKYNNE sheets.
And for those of us not fortunate enough to: 1) Be unbelievably handsome with strong Nordic features, 2) Live in a sun-dappled townhouse with kids, perfectly-arranged by size, weight and material, and 3) Have every kitchen utensil, perfectly arranged by size, weight and material—in other words, for those of us who live space-challenged, in petite Parisian apartments, the appeal of folding tables, chairs, silverware, etc..etc… holds a definite hypnotic appeal.
(We who live by the rule that you can’t bring anything into your apartment until you get rid of something else. Just flipping through those shiny-fresh catalog pages is enough to make you start drooling about all the things you’re going to buy to fill up all that newly-free space.)
So you make a list of all the fun items in the catalog you’re going to buy, like sets of nesting storage containers so you can organize all your breakfast cereals and display them by size, weight, and material in your Ikea dream kitchen and you can finally replace the glassware that’s been irreparably-ruined by Parisian calcaire because you’re too lazy to wash yours by hand.
Stuck in traffic for eternity on your way out of Paris, you finally make it to the suburbs and get to the megastore. You hurl one of those crumply yellow plastic shopping bags over your shoulder from the big bin, trudge up the stairs, and follow those eerily-compelling blue arrows glued to the floor, directing you where to go. And you start shopping.
But something’s funny. Everything doesn’t quite look or feel the same way as it did when you pored over the catalog at home. Where are those attractive people with Nordic features wearing khakis in sun-filled rooms? The people shopping here are kinda scary. (So much for the stereotype that all French people are gorgeous and chic. We ain’t in Paris out here, folks…)
And isn’t that HYDDIUS, the inexpensive yet fashionable sofa you admired in the catalog, over there? But you raise it up a bit and wonder if one is really supposed to be able to lift an entire piece of furniture that size with one arm. There’s just something odd about that. And you ask yourself, “Do I really want to sit down for breakfast every morning at a table called RËKKTUM?”
When you’ve had enough and start to craque, you park your cart full of KRÄPP and you decide you’re going get a bite to eat because you’re hungry, dehydrated and almost desiccated, your face might make a double for Maria Shriver.
(Maria, please…eat something…anything!)
So you woozily enter the cafeteria and grab a tray. You skip PRÄNSSER, the plate of dried reindeer. Wisely pass over the INFEKKSHüN salad. And settle on the meatballs. Which look pretty appealing in the glossy photo above the cooks. But when the pimply-faced young man hands the plate over the steam table to you (shouldn’t all that steam be exfoliating to him? Er, on second thought since he’s standing over the pot of meatballs, maybe that’s not such a good thing to think about right now…) and as the irregular balls tumble and slither across the plate, the grey-pink cubes of salmon just down the line start looking a bit more appetizing as you pass, and you’d like to dump the meatballs in favor of the overcooked salmon pieces, but it’s too late and you suck it up. You head to the register and the bill comes to 18.65€.
So much for all that money you’re saving on those WYPPØUT RAYNNFØREST napkins and CHYNA KWÅLLYTEE juice pitchers in your KAART.
You return to the store, heading downstairs where all the good stuff is. Things that you never really knew you needed. (Really. Does anyone really want square plates? Please people…enough already with the square plates.) And is there anything worse that crummy cookware? Those BRAYKSTMØRROW whisks and that PEECEÖVSHEET frying pan that a toddler could easily fold in half isn’t really such a good deal when you heft it. (But yes, it sure looked like a good value in the catalog.)
After an hour more, my nerves are completely shot and just when I think I can’t last one more second in there, I make a beeline for the check-out ‘hall’. For some reason, I am always behind the person that didn’t get the price code on the four screws for their 398 piece CHYLDLÅBBOOR kitchen they’ve just rung up. Or the lady before me decides that she didn’t really want the 99 centime STINXX candle anymore and they have to call the manager, who no one can find, to remove it from the receipt.
But on my last and final trip to Ikea, I discovered something delicious amongst the madness: the Daim bar.
There’s an expression they use in France, that you see a lot in advertising—Je craque!
Which translates to I crack!, and refers to something that you fall in love with. And that’s how I felt when I cracked off that first bite of le Daim.
Peel back the bright-orange wrapper and once you bite through the rather bland milk chocolate, you sink your teeth into the thinnest layer of not-completely-crisp caramel. My first thoughts were that as soon as I pulled my teeth apart, every one of my precious fillings was going to come out with it. But no. Whoever came up with this bar was a genius: the caramel gently releases from your teeth and the delicious chewy bar softens in your mouth like a warm puddle of buttery caramel.
I began by breaking off the tiniest little piece, saying I’d just have a taste and save the rest for later. Then I bundled it up and put it away. Then, a few minutes later, I pulled it out again, reasoning that I can have another bite. There’ll still be half leftover for later.
But a few stressful minutes later…okay, what the heck. Why not have just one more chunk. I’ll leave the last bite for later.
But within a few minutes I think, oh heck, I’ve almost polished the whole thing off anyways, so why not just finish it off.
Then it’s gone. And all you’re left with is an empty wrapper.
And the terrible truth sets in as you’re out in the parking lot, trying to squeeze all that useless STÜFF into your car, while you curse and swear you’ll never go back to Ikea again.
That you’re probably going to end up back here in a few months. Looking at the same things which looked so promising in the catalog, trolling up and down the same aisles. You’ll grudgingly have lunch again in their cafeteria and ponder whether you should upgrade your dinner plates to square ones in hopes of being cool. (Don’t. They’re the acid-washed jeans of dinnerware.)
But at least they’ll have those Daim bars. And as far as I’m concerned, they’re perhaps the only reason to go back.
But next time, I’ll skip the meatballs.
And the rest of the DRËKK.