Dairy Day

Our delightful family tradition

In New Zealand, we say “dairy” instead of convenience store, bodega, or mini-mart. It’s because these were the original neighbourhood buildings to get things like milk and yogurt in the olden days. Over time they’ve turned into markets that serve their local community.

Other than the cutesty script typeface at the top, most dairies look pretty much like this. Kia ora is a Te Reo Māori greeting that roughly means “good health” but in everyday usage it is used as an everyday “hello” greeting. It’s a bit like Aloha in Hawaii.

Tip Top is a beloved ice cream brand in New Zealand, for good reason. It’s delicious and it’s everywhere. In fact, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream only recently landed in New Zealand (at $11 USD per pint) and many kiwis I know are a bit confused by it. New Zealand has some of the best dairy products in the world, so they’re not as amazed by Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough as I am.

Inside the dairy you’ll typically find the same products from store to store. Ice cream, lollies (candy), biscuits (cookies), an array of drinks, basic essentials, maybe some lonely fruit in the corner. Maybe some magazines. And don’t forget the pies. New Zealand doesn’t do fruit pies like apple or cherry. But they love meat pies, and they’re sold almost everywhere, including small petrol (gas) stations. I love getting pies at the diary. I don’t know why they taste so good, but they always do.

In our family, Friday is “dairy day,” meaning after school the kids walk down to the village with a few dollars to buy lollies. To my American brain, this whole process is a near-miracle. Sending them to town on their own? With money? With no way to reach them? Imagine!

We believe in what we jokingly call “free-range parenting,” where you’re more hands-off and less helicoptery. But in Seattle, we’d often send parents into a panic when our kids were at the park by themselves or far from where we were sitting. But in Wellington, kids are often trusted to go out and about on their own. No big deal.

We’ve done dairy day for a few years now, and it’s a great way to end off the week. I never cared much for tradition when I was a kid, but I’m seeing the benefits of it now. The kids get to look forward to their weekly candy excursion and I remember how quaint and free-spirited their childhood has managed to be.

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