The IKEA Famous Bowl
the hygge bowl of slop
Last weekend I was in the 10th circle of Hell, which is Schaumburg, Illinois, taking care of some business. (The fact that Schaumburg is the 10th circle of Hell is revealed by Dante Alighieri in the lost sequel to The Divine Comedy, called The Divine Comedy 2: Satan Goes to Jail.)
Schaumburg is widely known for three things: The fact that it’s home to a Medieval Times, it appears to be made entirely of convention centers, and that there’s an IKEA there.
I was starving to the point where I was grouchy, and it’s not like Medieval Times has a drive-thru, so my hunger-addled brain thought it’d be a tremendous idea to go to IKEA on a fucking Saturday. Dear God, what a stupid idea. I waited in a long line for cafeteria food, watching couples aimlessly searching for affordable furniture whose difficult assembly would inevitably be the cause of their divorce.
Eventually, I was rewarded with a plate of meatballs in a creamy gravy, instant mashed potatoes, an unidentifiable steamed vegetable medley, and some lingonberry preserves. It was all delicious and I felt much better shortly after eating.
Since Davida wasn’t with me to enjoy any scrumptious furniture food, I stopped by the little IKEA market and purchased some frozen Swedish meatballs, packets of instant gravy, frozen mashed potatoes, and lingonberry preserves to bring home to her.
For dinner that night I heated everything up and she decided to put everything together in the same bowl. As she was eating, I heard her murmur to herself, saying, “This is just like a KFC Famous Bowl.”
Then we just looked at each other. At this point we didn’t really need to say anything because we both knew this idea was immediately going on the newsletter.
The concept of a Kentucky Fried Chicken Famous Bowl is both genius and kind of gross at the same time.
In my mind, it’s sort of like an American fast food version of bibimbap. It all begins with a tub of mashed potatoes, corn, and popcorn chicken, and everything is subsequently drowned in tan gravy. Then it’s topped with shredded cheese, which melts, and creates a bowl of food that’s as delicious as it is fugly. This is both infuriatingly genius and somehow just as stupid at the same time.
If you think about an IKEA meatball plate, it has nearly all of the same elements. Mashed potatoes, meat(balls), veggies, and gravy. The only thing missing was some cheese, so I had to assemble this in honor of Colonel Sanders, who apparently was a dirtbag in real life, but I mean, his outfit and little goatee were so cute, so who would have believed it back then?
I’d like to call attention to the IKEA’s frozen mashed potatoes.
They come formed into these little tubes that are reminiscent of Korean tteokbokki (rice cakes) or Styrofoam packing peanuts. That’s pretty awesome. I immediately shoved a little log of mashed potatoes up my ass. Once you heat them gently, they just turn into regular old mashed potatoes and the magic disappears from life instantly.
I’m actually pretty impressed that IKEA’s meatball gravy comes in a little packet.
I’d assumed that there’d be a little work involved, just like their furniture, but nope. All you need is just over a cup of boiling water and a little bit of cream or milk, and you’re done.
Try as I might, I couldn’t quite get it to whisk together perfectly, and there were permanent little lumps in it.
It’s sort of like putting a chair together but realizing that two little pieces don’t quite fit together right, which means it’s permanently a little fucked up, and you become unreasonably angry every time you look at it.
Then of course, there’s the meatballs, which are conveniently microwaveable.
I got some canned corn, which is the best kind of corn, from a neighborhood grocery store, and spooned some on top of the mashed potatoes.
I figured I’d give that philandering Colonel at least a little nod by using his favorite ingredients, you know?
Then I put the freshly microwaved meatballs on top and doused the whole thing in an obscene amount of gravy.
I may or may not have involuntarily moaned while doing this. I crack jokes about American food all the time, but I cannot resist a the siren call of a fuckton of gravy. You should see my plate at a Golden Corral. Actually, wait, no you shouldn’t. That’s only for people who pay for a different kind of subscription.
I couldn’t, of course, forget the cheese.
Honestly, cheese belongs on everything. I’ve pretty much given up eating food without it. A green salad? Add cheese. An ice cream sundae? Add cheese. Taking medication? Wash it down with cheese.
After a little go-around in the nuclear carousel, the cheese had melted into a warm blanket, and I garnished the IKEA Famous Bowl with a touch of lingonberry preserves.
The trick with them is that a little goes a long way. The few times I’ve gotten meatballs at IKEA, I’ve always thought they were stingy with the stuff, but the truth is, a dab on a forkful is plenty of acid and sugar to cut through the richness of the meat and gravy. Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.
Does anybody still make that joke anymore, or am I the last person on earth who will ever do so? Find out at my next TED Talk.
You knew this was gonna be good, right? Because it was terrific. The IKEA Famous Bowl is just a warm velvety pile of soothing mashed potatoes with delicious meatballs on top, drowned in a perfectly inoffensive savory sauce with occasional corn kernels distributed throughout, all under a blanket of cheese with a tiny bit of tartness to clean out each bite. Of course it was great. Davida loved it. It was her revelation, after all.
So IKEA, if you want to really blow people’s minds in the food innovation department, dump all the shit in a bowl and just add cheese to it. Davida thought of a good name for your new product. And because of the way it’s spelled, we are sure you will avoid any legal pitfalls versus KFC.
You can call it the IKEA Fåmøus Böwl.
Next up? Let’s do IKEA thin crust pizza. Stay tuned, everyone.
Okay, everyone, don’t forget to share the newsletter any way you can. Forward it to your friends and family, put it up on social media, and contact everyone at IKEA’s corporate headquarters and demand they add a IKEA Fåmøus Böwl to the cafeteria menu:
And don’t forget to sign up for a paid subscription (yes, you). You’ll get extra content nearly every week in the form of a bonus newsletter, all of which are just as good as the free ones. Don’t believe me?
Well, if you sign up for a paid subscription, you’ll have full run of the archives via foodisstupid.substack.com. I’ve been running this thing for over three years; there’s so much for you to discover.
As I mentioned, this week’s extra newsletter is going to be a pizzafied version of these IKEA ingredients, and I’m sure it’ll be stellar. If you all behave, it might even be a recipe.
Here’s something to tide you over until then: On the Taste Cooking podcast, my dear friends Matt Rodbard and Helen Rosner had a little chat, and to my delight, my name popped up. It was for something I reported on earlier this year for my day job at The Takeout. Be sure to listen to it here, or search for Taste’s podcast via Spotify or Apple podcasts.
Okay, enough chatter. As always, I love you all, and I’ll hop into some of your inboxes soon, hint hint. (That’s me poking at you all to subscribe, since I wouldn’t want any of you to miss out.)