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  • Michael Krakovskiy 12:20 am on September 11, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: armless nursing chair, Bertil Torekull, , car door factory, , Economy of Sweden, farmer, , , Ingvar, , , STØR,   

    Leading By Design: The Ikea Story 

    Based on exclusive interviews with the legendary founder of IKEA, Ingvar Kamprad, Leading by Design tells the inside story of Kamprad’s humble roots and of the visionary concepts and innovative strategies that turned a small, Swedish mail-order company into a worldwide commercial giant.

    When in 1943 at age seventeen Ingvar Kamprad founded IKEA, he had no way of knowing that IKEA would come to represent dedication to quality, a distinct design style, and convenience to the harried modern consumer. Today, more than 195 million people worldwide frequent his 150 stores in thirty countries, and almost 100 million catalogs are printed each year.

    As the grandson of German immigrants who went to Sweden in search of a better life, Ingvar Kamprad grew up on a farm in a rural village. But he was no farmer. Early in his life, he discovered his natural affinity for business. From cigarette lighters and fish to Christmas cards and pens, young Ingvar devoted himself to importing and selling anything he thought he could make a profit on. Furniture was just one item in a long and fairly undistinguished list’until, in an effort to best his main competitor, he took a chance on an armless nursing chair he called Ruth. It quickly sold out. Adding a coffee table and then a sofa bed and then a chandelier, Kamprad was astonished by how quickly the merchandise moved.

    The rest is business history. In Leading by Design, Bertil Torekull, a well-known Swedish journalist, reveals the genius and the secrets behind IKEA’s extraordinary success. With candor and detail, he offers insights into Kamprad’s cutting-edge management strategies, his enthusiasm to embrace innovative methods (such as producing ready-to-assemble merchandise and using a car door factory to produce affordable products with universal appeal), and the tools he used to grow the IKEA brand into a veritable industry unto itself.

    More than a standard business history Leading by Design captures the essence of Kamprad himself. It is a testament to the inspiration, the ideas, and the innovations that make a good business great.

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 3:27 am on October 3, 2006 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Bento, , , convenience store food, county fair food, farmer, festival food, festival junk food, , , food pyramid, , , junk food overlows, , Miso, , Ramen, , , Squid, , Tempura, , , Yōshoku   

    Deadprogrammer Visits Japan Part VIa : Japanese Food 

    You know that a have a japonophiliac streak in me, but I can’t honestly say that Japanese cuisine is my favorite. In fact it holds a shaky fourth position, after Vietnamese, Korean and Thai cuisines (in that order). Sushi, sashimi and kushiyaki (stuff on skewers) are great comfort food, and not many things achive the perfection of high quality sashimi (especially if I caught the fish) and fried smelt is probably one of my top 10 favorite foods. But overall, I think Japanese cuisine is all that great, but I still like it better than French and Italian.

    Let’s start at the base of Japanese food pyramid. The fast food. I am not going to get into details about Japanese McDonalds and the like. Calling it Macdonurado and making the clown hot and female does not change it much.

    Let’s start with the first meal that you might encounter – the bento, the boxed lunch. The sell these in most trains and train stations. The variety of bento is amazing, almost always reflecting the season and featuring fresh local produce. It’s probably the perfect and the best fast food in the world. Sadly, obentos are not popular in the US, which I think might change in the future. The thing that most resembles the bento, the tv dinner, is terrible and thankfully extinct.

    Here’s a group of Japanese businessmen enjoying their bentos in a shinkansen. One of my favorite features of Mainichi Daily News is a special feature about bentos written by Shinobu Kobayashi. A bento usually cost about $10. My favorite part of bentos is the little exotic pickles, from lotus root to stuff I can’t even identify. They are like a little surprise – you never know how they’ll taste.

    A whole separate category should be devoted to festival junk food. Think the Japanese version of American county fair food.

    First, there’s takoyaki, which should be familiar to all I Love Katamari players. Takoyaki are greasy balls of fried batter, filled with chunks of octopus and drenched in mayo, served searing hot. Unhealthy as hell, but great with beer.

    Okonomiyaki is sort of Japanese take on pizza. They are also hot and greasy beyond belief, and again, a great drinking food.


    Grilled squid on a stick is a popular festival food.

    Mitarashi dango are sticky rice flour dumplings on a stick. They are very filling, but not particularly tasty. I liked mochi a bit more.

    Fried foods are very popular in Japan, and the idea of deep frying was introduced by Portuguese missionaries. I always thought that it were the Dutch and the word “tempura” refered to “temperature,” but Wikipedia article tells me that it’s from “”ad tempora quadragesimae”, meaning “in the time of Lent””. In any case, tempura is only good when it’s made in front of you, and even then too greasy for my taste. I had a good tempura meal in a moderately expensive tempura place (it set me back something like $50) and I am still underwhelmed. Tempura here in New York is outright horrible.

    Japanese cuisine is at its worst when it tries to emulate western food. There’s this class of meals called yoshoku, which means western-style japanese food, and it’s usually horrible. What it reminds me of the most is medieval artists trying to depict elephants and rhinos having for reference only pictures made by other medieval artists who also haven’t seen the real thing. Here’s an gratin of some sort that my wife had:

    The variety of convenience store food boggled my mind. Even the most basic student staples like ramen soup are exotic there: here’s one that has real clams in it’s fixin’ package:

    While junk food overlows and is dirt cheap, fruit and vegetables generally are very expensive. To make up for enormous prices, they are often local, hand picked, meticulously packaged (sometimes with an autographed photo of the farmer), and of great quality. Here’s a moderately cheap grocery store – those tiny little watermelons are $20 each.

    For all the corruption of the west, traditional meals are great. I already covered the phenomenon of the “morning set” in a previous post, so here’s a photo of a traditional Japanese breakfast that I had in a ryokan. It consted of fried salmon, rice, miso soup, seeweed salad, pickles and interestingly shaped egg omlet.

    Traditional dinner at ryokan was also great – sashimi, two kinds of seafood salad, pickled shrimp, miso soup, rice and sake. The little pink flower-like thingy is a slice of a special boiled fish cake (I think).

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 9:53 pm on June 4, 2005 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Andhra cuisine, Boiled egg, Breakfast, , Chutney, , farmer, , Gujarati cuisine, , Karnataka cuisine, Rajasthani cuisine   

    Why Have a Lesser Eviil For Breakfast? 

    My wife was making boiled eggs for breakfast for the first time in a long time. She seemed to forget that the eggs will crack if put into hot water, and thus created a replica of a certain Great Old One. He was very tasty with some chutney from farmer’s market.

     
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