Health

Takeaway Torture Test Day 3: IKEA

Day three of my non-stop fast food frenzy has a Swedish flavour, as I lurk in an IKEA cafe or two. Meatballs, anyone?

If you’re wondering why I’m doing this, check out Day 1 at McDonald’s and Day 2 at KFC.

Breakfast: Hot Stuff

You probably think of IKEA as a purveyor of discount furniture and useful home accessories, and it’s true that you’ll have to go a lot further to find an IKEA store than a McDonald’s, KFC or Hungry Jack’s. But if you do, the food can be seriously cheap: the standard hot breakfast, for instance, is $2.95. If you’re in the IKEA Family discount scheme, you can also get a free coffee with it. So I wanted to include it in my roundup.

I also wanted to vary my locations a little, and that was more challenging. Melbourne has two IKEA stores: one located in Richmond, the other in Springvale. It is possible to get from one to the other using only public transport, but it’s not something anyone other than a maniac would do. I am that maniac. The cafe opens half an hour before the main store, but not too many people were in evidence when we arrived.

Breakfast was scrambled eggs, a sausage, bacon, tomato and hash browns. I splurged and had the baked beans as well, having skimped somewhat on fibre on the chicken-heavy day 2. As I was accompanied on this day by Master 10 (whose birthday party was an element of the Day 1 McDonald’s frenzy, I also got an extra tomato. Despite the prospect of a tram, train and bus ride before I got to lunch, life was going swimmingly. The free Wi-Fi also worked well; the speeds are nothing to boast about, but Master 10 happily used it to watch YouTube.

Lunch: The Balls Are Up

It was always going to be about the meatballs. They’re the iconic IKEA dish, and while I briefly contemplated the roasted vegetable sandwich and the chicken breast, there was never really any competition. A plate of 15 with a side serving of chips was enough for the two of us. Master 10 also had a jelly and consumed copious quantities of cola mixed with lingonberry drink. I stuck with the coffee.

I hadn’t eaten in for every meal on either of the previous days, and IKEA wasn’t going to be the exception. I didn’t want to hang around shopping for several hours, and I didn’t want to retrace my steps and head back to Richmond either. It was time to take advantage of an option that I wouldn’t find anywhere else in this experiment: the ability to purchase the same ingredients and try and recreate them at home. It was time for the Swedish food market downstairs.

Dinner: Almost Home Cooking

Master 10 really liked the meatballs, and thought that the idea of cooking them for dinner back home was swell. At $10 for a kilogram, the meatballs are pretty cheap, but also a darn sight more than I’d need on my own. I also grabbed a packet of the gravy used with the meatballs, and some frozen potato rosti (since chips weren’t already on offer).

The cooking process didn’t involve much more than heating the meatballs and rosti in the oven for 20 minutes and boiling up some water and cream to mix with the gravy. The results also tasted essentially identical to what I’d got in store, though on a volume basis they were even cheaper.

I’ll also confess: my friends took pity on me at this stage, and insisted that I add some of what they were having for dinner (steamed vegetables and lasagne) to my plate. I didn’t take much persuading. Master 10 was much more of a purist. He told his mother to save the leftover meatballs for his dinner the following night.

Day 3 ended on a happy and almost home-cooked note, but I have to admit: I’m falling rather too readily into the habit of eating the same thing even when there are lots of choices on offer. Is that going to be an issue when I wrap up with a surge of Subway?