The day we smuggled Dirkie

Dirkie Condensed Milk tube

The Day we smuggled Dirkie

The Swedish Embassy was pristine: sharp, white, minimalist, not a speck of dust to be seen. Like living in the clouds, only without the fluffiness. I expected angels in suits.

Politely, we introduced ourselves as ‘Andrea and Warren from Norma&Wilma’s Catering Company’, and were directed through the house to the kitchen, which would be our haven for the duration of the event we were waitering.

We stepped delicately through the Embassy; hyper aware that our mere presence was a stain on the sophistication of the enveloping space—as if we could we shrink our personalities to preserve the all-encompassing (and consuming) essence of perfection. We were on tiptoes by the time we reached the familiarity of the serving quarters.

It was a small event—perhaps 25 dignitaries. We set up crockery, cutlery and glassware, ensuring that everything was sparkling and placed to precision. At these types of events, there is usually a mad frenzy at the outset; drinks and hors d’oeuvres, mains, smiles and small-talk…and then a lull.

It was in the lull that we found magic or what we thought was magic.

In the kitchen was a pantry; a refrigerated pantry. You know when you go on holiday and there is that overwhelming desire to open every drawer and cupboard in whatever place you are staying just to see? Well, we snuck into the pantry and had a little look. Food and boxes of food, and then…

…tubes, yellow tubes. With children’s faces peering out at us—smiling. It could only be one thing.


Squeezy, oozy condensed milk.

The stuff of childhood. (And apparently adulthood.)

My response was visceral.

Immediately, I was taken back to family holidays in Underberg; me, my brothers and best friend spending all of our pocket money on cream doughnuts shaped like eclairs from Spar and Dirkie, only sold at the NCD farmer’s store alongside gumboots and manure.

So, we took some.

A couple of tubes (five or six) smuggled out of the embassy alongside the bottles of Glogg that our generous hosts gifted to us at the end of the evening. Our excitement was huge; the Glogg secondary to the Dirkie.

As soon as we were wrapped in the safety of Warren’s white VW Golf, we each took hold of a yellow tube, which shone golden (with sparkles) through the tinted lens of nostalgia. I screwed off the lid and squeezed…not too hard as condensed milk is messy.

Why was it yellow?

Maybe that’s how the Swedish serve their Dirkie?

Not quite what I expected but that’s okay—I stuck my tongue out and took a lick.

Oh the horror…this was not sweet, beautiful Dirkie. It was mustard. MUSTARD! Who puts a smiling child’s face on a mustard tube?

Never was there ever so great an anti-climax.


The only saving grace was that we had Glogg and wouldn’t have to buy mustard for the next two years.


Postscript: We found this at IKEA the other day but you’ll be glad to know that we that did not make the same mistake #dirkienotdirkie #nosuchthingasSwedishDirkie. We did, however, laugh a shitload.

This story is also shared on Our Fireside Stories PODCAST – Stoney, Cinnamon Sticks and Salty-Flour-Water pies

Author & Storyteller: Andrea Zanin

Andrea is a writer, wife, mother and dreamer; also the author of this website. She moved to London in 2006 to earn £s, travel, see bands and buy 24-up Dr Martens—which she did, and then ended up staying. Andrea lives in North London with her husband (also a Saffa) and five children. She loves this grand old city but misses her home and wishes her children could say “lekker” (like a South African) and knew what a “khoki” is




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