Food & Drink » Glenda Bartosh on Food

Food and Drink

Naughty names for nice food

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We got ourselves some spotted dick the other day, and we laughed like crazy as we boiled it up and ate it down.

It’s not very often you can boil up a spotted dick and not get anyone in trouble, including yourself.

First of all spotted dick doesn’t usually come in a tin. But we’re not in England, and I’m not likely to make it from scratch or otherwise get a homemade version, so tinned it was. It was good enough, although a bit heavy going, which, apparently it can be, say those who are more versed in such matters than the likes of me.

The fact is, spotted dick was originally made with suet, and this tinned one had enough hydrogenated vegetable oil to grease a tractor axel. Perfect for a rainy day and a workout on a miserable dank heath, were one handy. But the taste was nice and rich, laden with lots of caramelized sugar and molasses undertones, a rich cake of a pudding with scads of raisins.

And it should have been for the nearly seven dollars we paid for a wee tin of it, no doubt because it was imported all the way from Jolly Old. And those shipping fuels, well that’s another story.

I suppose we shouldn’t even have bought it, what with the inherent stupidity in buying such long-distance exotica. But I’ve always wanted to experience or at least gaze upon spotted dick ever since hearing its crazy name. Spotted dick? Who on Earth came up with that?

But once you see one, the "spotted" part is pretty obvious, due to all the dark dotty raisins. But the "dick" end of it? Lord knows from whence that cometh, so I turned to Martha Barnette’s Ladyfingers and Nun’s Tummies , one of the best little reads about food names you can get for your money.

And this is what I found: First she wonders if spotted dick keeps the same company as the Swahili pili-pili , a very hot pepper and slang for "penis", which you may want to keep in mind the next time you visit the east coast of Africa.

The same goes for an equally suggestively shaped Korean pepper called golchu ; likewise for another from Louisiana/East Texas special called, not surprisingly, peter pepper.

However, unlike these prickly little rascals, a big round of heavy pudding is not in the least dick-like. But according to the Oxford English Dictionary, "dick" was used to mean "plain pudding" ’round the mid-1800s, about 10 years before it was ever recorded as vulgar slang for "penis".

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