Educating the world about Texas one Yankee at at time.

Educating the world about Texas one Yankee at a time.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Sweden comes to Texas or "Don't eat the black Swedish fish"

I went to Ikea down in Round Rock with my family recently. I like Ikea. All that Swedish practicality and quality home furnishings for prices competitive with Walmart is more than I can resist. I feel all “cool” and “chic” yet sensible walking around the rat maze that is that store. My daughters dig “Småland” even if the store only allows them an hour to play there while I shop. We like the food in the Ikea café. Much of my home is covered in shelves Ikea calls “Billy.” We’re hip, cool, and Scandinavian here in Salado because of Ikea.

The store has a lot of funny names for things, like FJÄLLTÅG, BESTÅ, and BILLY. Not that “Billy” is strange. I just think it’s odd to name shelving after your cousin, but this is Scandinavian logic we’re dealing with here, so who am I to question?

I like shopping expeditions that not only result in a purchase of something I think is useful, practical, and attractive, but also result in educating me on stuff I did not previously know. I learn all kinds of words in Swedish and Spanish, because everything is posted in three languages instead of just English and Spanish.

Quite frankly, I could live happily in the Ikea showrooms, as long as my daughters got to live in Småland. My husband, Frank, knows better than to even bring up Walmart when it comes to shopping for shelving, office furniture, and storage needs. We just head down to Ikea.

My vision of Ikea, however, has been recently shattered.

On our last trip, Frank wandered over to the Swedish Food Market to hunt down a few things we really did not need. While he was shopping, I happened to see these innocuous looking gummi candies I thought I recognized as "Swedish fish," and having had a good experience with the red ones, naturally I put a sample "black Swedish fish" in my mouth. It was in a sampler dish on a shelf marked "TÅRTA MÖRK CHOKLAD," and, thus, must be chocolate-flavored and "MÖRK" must be Swedish for "fish." I now know that they were NOT "TÅRTA MÖRK CHOKLAD," neither were they "Swedish fish." They were, according to my taste buds, "ammonia-soaked rubber @$$ fish" because that is what they tasted like.

The skid-mark left behind by the fish experience wore off my tongue after about an hour, and I was able to summon enough strength to do an online search of these vile things. They are, indeed, "Holland Herrings" or salty licorice fish. But I stand by "ammonia-soaked rubber @$$ fish." If y'all go to Ikea, be warned. Those clerks in the food market are messing with their displays for their own amusement.

If you are required to give a gift to someone you loathe, this is it.

I will continue to patronize Ikea, but I have to say that my trust has been violated, along with my tongue. I won’t blindly and blithely put anything in my mouth without thoroughly reading the English-language description of the cool Swedish label first. You’d think, growing up in Texas, I’d know that already, but the Swedish had led me to believe they could be trusted with something as innocent as a gummi candy. I never dreamed they’d pull a bait-and-switch with something…Dutch.

I’m considering a tersely worded email in several languages of my own, and including the phrase: “Min svävare är full med ålar,” which is “My hovercraft is full of eels.” I got that off an online site entitled “Useful Swedish Phrases.” It sounds threatening to me, so I think I’ll use it.

I don’t own a hovercraft, and even if I did, it might not be full of eels. But they don’t know that. And I think turnabout really is fair play.

Anyway, consider yourself warned. Don’t eat the black gummi fish. The after-burn left on your tongue will make your eyes bleed and scorch your nasal passages. Read the labels in your native language first. And memorize the Swedish word for “Help!” which is “Hjälp!” and pronounced “YELP!” in case you forget and eat something without examining it thoroughly first.

As for me, I’m gonna stick to eating Mexican food for awhile. It’s just safer.

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