Friday, August 18, 2006

We're taking IKEA by storm!

At IKEA, not only can you buy reasonably priced products with cool Scandinavian names such as: SULTAN FÄNGEBO, MAMMUT, and HENSVIK, but you can also feast on warm cinnamon rolls. The rolls are mediocre at best, but after trekking through the entire massive store, it seems appropriate to have a little celebratory snack at the end of your shopping venture. Plus, you're going to need a little fuel in order to assemble everything you buy.

Personally, I adore seeing the Swedish flag billowing high above Costa Mesa from the 405 freeway, but that's just me. For Scandinavian wannabes and others alike, IKEA is a crowd pleaser with its cheery blue and yellow nationalistic color scheme, strategically placed child-oriented play areas throughout the store, and readily available cafeteria meatballs.

IKEA also offers more subtle hints of Scandinavian culture, such as having to bag your own merchandise. Bagging your own merchandise at IKEA may be an annoyance to some, but for me it is a happy reminder of my days shopping in the Danish grocery stores. (Danish grocers often do not bag your groceries for you, and even more often do not provide bags for free at all. Here in America we are a bag-entitled society). In Denmark, I often forgot to bring my own bags while shopping, forced to lug my edible loot to the bus stop, all the while trying to figure out whether I bought the right kind of flour.

As a traveler, I find that what a local views as an annoyance translates into a traveler's idea of adventure. If your hometown hassles you, it's something to write the local paper about. But if you experience minor hassles in a foreign city, you are taking in another culture, intrigued by its quirks and allowing them to enthrall you in a way that the details back home never would. You are less boxed in by your own expectations, more open to a change in plans at any given moment.

Denmark could chew me up and spit me out but I would still come back for more.

Besides bakery hunting, shopping for food was one of my favorite activities in Denmark. When my local market did not have all ingredients I needed for my family guacamole recipe, this gave me the perfect excuse to explore other neighborhoods and find alternative markets.

And it all leads me back to The Great American Bakery Hunt. With the void of excellent bakeries in my surrounding area, I feel it necessary, essential to my happiness even, to take on American cities and see what their baking cultures have to offer. Taking IKEA by storm was fun, and clearly sentimental, but I need more than just any batch of warm cinamon rolls at the end of my day.

A worthy hunt indeed.
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