Cultural Experience



My friends took me to Ikea. I’d never been before. I guess I’d never really needed to go. A couple of winters ago I was staying in Austin and thought about going to the one nearby, but then I realized the “nearby” Ikea was 28 miles away.

Now I needed a blanket, a soft blanket, a blanket that was the right size for my bed, so I asked my friend if we could go to Ikea together. She said yes, and when she mentioned the impending excursion to her other friend, that friend wanted to go too. So we were a Sunday afternoon threesome moseying through Ikea.

I could have gotten an adequate blanket at Wal-Mart, and I did look for one at thrift stores, but I didn’t find anything that was just right. Besides, I like felt like I needed to shop at Ikea at least once. Whenever people talk about Ikea,  I’ve been the country bumpkin who couldn’t relate to what they were saying. I felt like I needed the cultural experience of Ikea. I don’t mean some sort of Swedish cultural experience. I mean the American cultural experience of going to Ikea and buying home furnishings.

We arrived around 11am. We looked around the first few display rooms, then Ms. A said she really needed to eat. I was super excited. I had heard about the Ikea cafeteria, but I hadn’t even hoped we would have a food experience.

We walked through the line and the fried chicken fingers sure looked good. However, since I had been eating mostly cheese and bread for the last several days (or so it seemed), I decided to get something vaguely nutritious. I decided on the cauliflower and sweet potato stew with brown rice ($2.99), then added in a slice of garlic toast ($.69).

This combination made for a rather beige meal.     IMG_2337

The vegetarian stew had a bit more color to it on the display photo. The garlic bread was standard frozen and reheated and could have used more artificial garlic flavor. The stew was pretty good, not rave worthy, but better than it looks, and rather tasty for department store cafeteria fare. (Ok, I admit, this was my first meal at a department store cafeteria.)

For dessert, I picked up a punsch roll ($.49). I had no idea what a punsch roll tasted like. I’d never even heard of it before. But hey, I was trying new things. Why not try a new dessert?

The punsch roll looked like this:     IMG_2336

In real life, the green in the middle was more of a neon 80s green. I took a bite and tried to describe it to Nolagirl. The whole thing was chocolatey, which was good. The inside was moister than cake, but drier than pudding. There was something else about it that I liked, but couldn’t quite place until I took the second bite. Rum! It tastes like rum, I told Ms. A and Nolagirl, but that’s impossible, right?

Turns out I wasn’t too far off the mark. I Googled “punsch roll,” and this is what I found out from

Punsch-roll (Swedish: Punschrulle) is a Swedish small cylindrical pastry covered with green marzipan with the ends dipped in chocolate, with an interior consisting of a mix of crushed cookies, butter, and cacao, flavoured with punsch liqueur.

This pastry is often called dammsugare (“vacuum cleaner”), referring not only to its appearance, but also to the supposed practice of the pastry baker collecting crumbs from yesterday’s cookies for filling.[citation needed] Other names are arraksrulle (as arrak is an ingredient in punsch) and “150-ohmer” (because a brown-green-brown colour sequence on a resistor denotes a resistance value of 150Ω.)

What I thought was rum was actually punsch,

a traditional liqueur in Sweden… produced from arrack, neutral spirits, sugar, water, and various flavorings. Arrack, originally a strong Indian liquor, was imported from Java and became the base ingredient for making punsch. Punsch usually have 25% alcohol by volume (ABV) and 30% sugar.[1] (

I enjoyed the punsch roll very much and would definitely eat one (or six) again.

After eating, I visited the restroom. Ikea has those toilets where you push the handle up for #1 and down for #2.


There was also an emergency medical call button in the stall.      IMG_2341

This was the first time I’ve seen such a call button outside of a medical establishment. (I didn’t technically need a photo of either the sign or the call button, but it’s fun to take photos of things I don’t see all the time.)

After eating and visiting the restroom, we set out to shop.

I didn’t really understand how the place was set up, and Nolagirl and Ms. A had to explain to me that the little rooms were arranged to give shoppers ideas of how items could be placed in the home. It isn’t enough to offer shoppers a bowl to buy; Ikea suggests to shoppers where and how they might use the bowl.

I saw several (many) things I liked, but living in a van means I have no room for glass jars and less room for furniture.

We finally made it downstairs, and I knew I was closer to my blanket.

As we stepped off the elevator, we saw this:     IMG_2343

So we grabbed a cart and took turns pushing it through the store.

The first thing I saw that I wanted was a tray with legs.          The one I wanted was purple. I carried it around for awhile, but then decided I didn’t really need it for $7.99. It was really cool, but I am feeling no nonbuyer’s remorse.

The second thing I wanted was a metal garlic press. I haven’t had a garlic press in years, but when I had one, I LOVED it. I need to eat more garlic, and I think maybe I will eat more garlic if I have a garlic press. So I bought it for $3.79, and I plan to use it.


Did I mention how much stuff that store holds? Rows and aisles and shelves and stacks of stuff and stuff and stuff. The store was also full of people buying the stuff. At one point, I looked up and what I saw seemed like a feeding frenzy of shopping. I took this photo of a bunch of strangers shopping in Ikea:


I finally found my blanket. It’s called Tilkort, and it’s soft. It cost $12.99, and I love it. I wrapped up in it on the car ride back to my friend’s house. I can’t wait to sleep under it.


The last thing I needed was a twin size fitted sheet. The least expensive 100% cotton sheet I could find was $7.99. I don’t know what sheets costs. Could I have gotten it cheaper at Wal-Mart? I have no idea. The sheet and I were both there at the same moment, so I bought it. Even if I could get a sheet cheaper at Wal-Mart, it would take me time and money to go out there, so any savings would actually be minimal.

I’d budgeted $25 to spend at Ikea. My total with tax? $26.78. Yes, if I’d been on The Price Is Right, I’d have lost the game because my spending was over the goal. But I was glad to get out of the land of temptation only $1.78 over budget. (My lunch money came out of another budget. Our original plan was to go to a new Cajun restaurant for lunch, but decided against that because Nolagirl was feeling ill and didn’t want to eat. I’m sure if we’d eaten at a real restaurant, I’d have spent more than $4.51)

I had a pleasant experience at Ikea. I’m not itching to go back any time soon, but I wouldn’t mind going back again some day if I actually need stuff. Shopping without a plan there offers too much temptation to buy stuff I don’t really need and don’t even have room for. I understand now how people could really enjoy going there and not even buy anything, especially parents who have left their small children downstairs in the kids’ play area. The upstairs is particularly peaceful, with soft lighting and tidy surroundings.

After paying for my purchases, I saw the food market area, but we didn’t browse there. I didn’t want to spend any more money, and I don’t really need any Swedish food anyway. Near the exit door, there was a large vat of Swedish meatballs, free for the sampling. I got myself one and ate it on the way out. It was absolutely delicious. It was so moist, so tender. It tasted like the Salisbury steaks from the TV dinners of my youth, but without the thick, gloppy brown gravy. Oh my god, I gushed to my friends. Next time I come here, fuck eating vegetarian, I’m having meatballs!

I took all the photos in this post.

About Blaize Sun

My name is Blaize Sun. Maybe that's the name my family gave me; maybe it's not. In any case, that's the name I'm using here and now. I've been a rubber tramp for nearly a decade.I like to see places I've never seen before, and I like to visit the places I love again and again. For most of my years on the road, my primary residence was my van. For almost half of the time I was a van dweller, I was going it alone. Now I have a little travel trailer parked in a small RV park in a small desert town. I also have a minivan to travel in. When it gets too hot for me in my desert, I get in my minivan and move up in elevation to find cooler temperatures or I house sit in town in a place with air conditioning I was a work camper in a remote National Forest recreation area on a mountain for four seasons. I was a camp host and parking lot attendant for two seasons and wrote a book about my experiences called Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods. During the last two seasons as a work camper on that mountain, I was a clerk in a campground store. I'm also a house and pet sitter, and I pick up odd jobs when I can. I'm primarily a writer, but I also create beautiful little collages; hand make hemp jewelry and warm, colorful winter hats; and use my creative and artistic skills to decorate my life and brighten the lives of others. My goal (for my writing and my life) is to be real. I don't like fake, and I don't want to share fake. I want to share my authentic thoughts and feelings. I want to give others space and permission to share their authentic selves. Sometimes I think the best way to support others is to leave them alone and allow them to be. I am more than just a rubber tramp artist. I'm fat. I'm funny. I'm flawed. I try to be kind. I'm often grouchy. I am awed by the stars in the dark desert night. I hope my writing moves people. If my writing makes someone laugh or cry or feel angry or happy or troubled or comforted, I have done my job. If my writing makes someone think and question and try a little harder, I've done my job. If my writing opens a door for someone, changes a life, I have done my job well. I hope you enjoy my blog posts, my word and pictures, the work I've done to express myself in a way others will understand. I hope you appreciate the time and energy I put into each post. I hope you will click the like button each time you like what you have read. I hope you will share posts with the people in your life. I hope you'll leave a comment and share your authentic self with me and this blog's other readers. Thank you for reading.  A writer without readers is very sad indeed.

2 Responses »

  1. It was an eyeopening experience, for sure.

    On a sad note, the blanket I bought was a piece of shit and all of the stuffing has shifted to the sides.

I'd love to know what you think. Please leave a comment.