Lost in the Supermarket is for anyone who has come across a weird food item at your local grocery store and either a) erupted in a giggling fit or b) tasted a little vomit in the back of your mouth. Or both.
The concept is simple: My stomach is being put on the line so that you won’t ever again wonder how “food” like Pork Brains in Milk Gravy or Clamato juice tastes.
LitS’s subject matter will be limited to food found at neighborhood grocers and not “gourmet” shops, because that opens up a whole new can of worms (one of the few food items i absolutely will not be trying).
The sole inspiration for this column is the insanely-unfortunately-named can of wonder that is spotted dick. From the moment i read the name and glanced at what appears to be a putrid, globular mass pictured on the label, I was haunted. Where is this from? Does “spotted dick” not have the same hilarious connotation there? Who would eat this? Would I eat this?
Sure, why not. yeah, give it to Mikey, he’ll eat anything. A “sponge pudding,” spotted dick hails, unshockingly, from the UK, the culinary-deficient nation that has brought the world such gagtastic cuisine as eel pie, haggis and baked beans on toast. It’s not a body part (thankfully) but a suet pudding (suet being the fat around the kidneys of cows and sheep). The “spotted” part refers to the flecks of dried currants, raisins or other fruit.
The “dick” origin is a little less clear. My (surely inaccurate) guess is pudding was shortened to pud, slang for penis, so some jokester changed it to dick, because it was subtler than “spotted heat-seeking love missile.” Those with more insight suggest it was a gradual, less salacious bastardization of the word pudding or a variation of the word “dough.”
Another theory: in the 1800s, “dick” was a hard cheese and some genius decided to add treacle (syrup) to it, creating “treacle dick.” add fruit and — voila! — “spotted dick.” (In recent years, some uptight brits have renamed the dessert “Spotted Richard” to avoid embarrassment/chuckling.)
Again, thankfully, the canned version available in supermarkets from Heinz contains no suet. So purists would insist it’s not actual dick, but at least it’s safe for vegetarians.
I picked up a can from the British section of the international aisle at a local Meijer. Printed on the can is a money-back guarantee, which seems pretty ballsy but made me less pessimistic about its puke-inducing potential.
A British friend told me “steaming your dick is the traditional method,” so, after yet another spat of giggling (yes, i have the sense of humor of an 8-year-old), i whipped out a saucepan. Per the instructions, i submerged the can in water and lightly boiled it for 35 minutes.
After a few more penis jokes (“Oooh, my dick is hot!”), i opened both ends of the can, popped it onto a plate and put a little “custard” (sugar-free vanilla pudding, in this case) on the side. It has a very thick, spongey consistency and — surprise! — it’s pretty delicious, similar to a rich spiced muffin (almost carrot cake-like) with raisins. The flavor really lingers and the richness demands a milk chaser, suggesting a pretty high fat/calorie content (10 grams of fat, 260 calories, which isn’t too bad by American standards).
Turns out Brits aren’t completely horrible inventors of food items — they’re just really bad at naming them (see: bangers and mash, tiddy oggies, bubble and squeak, etc.).
The verdict? I love dick! it’s an ideal cold-day treat (definitely best served warm) and a great dessert option/conversation piece for your next dinner party. Just don’t tell your guests they’re eating spotted dick until after they taste it.
HAVE SUGGESTIONS FOR FUTURE TASTINGS? CONTACT MIKE BREEN: [email protected]