“Spotted Dick” Left Behind
Marty Martindale

The off-shoots, the restless children, the ones who needed freedom at all cost from Mother spottedickEngland, endured dangerous passages over the raging main to arrive in a new land with no welcoming committee, no housing, a bitter winter and no familiar foods. The new Americans would have to content themselves with a whole lot of wild game, corn, pumpkins, squash and roach-like lobsters. Their fondness for sweet desserts had to become satisfied with pumpkin pie, chocolate pudding and devil’s food cake. Yes, lobsters were considered pests and animal feed in those days.

The new Americans never thought twice when they fled a land where savory stuffed sheep’s heart, brains on toast, calf’s heel jelly, pig’s trotters, chitlins,  tripe with onions, oxtail soup, tongue, blood pudding, deviled kidneys and sweetbreads were the “delish de rigueur.” They also left a land of heavenly puddings, “pud-puds” like Bakewell Tart, Rhubarb Crumble, Gooseberry Fool, Apple Turnover, Treacle Sponge, Jam Roly-Poly, Bread and Butter Pudding, Blancmange, Trifle and the much-loved Spotted Dick, swaddled lavishly in thick, golden, custard cream or sweeter-than-sweet treacle.

The highly exalted Spotted Dick was, itself, the subject of pageantry, a mighty Christmas Holiday Pudding reaching back in history to medieval England. The venerated Spotted Dick was ilumined brightly with brandy flames, celebrated in literature, frequently the hiding place for wish bones, silver thimbles and lucky coins. It was also the reason for “Stir-up Sunday” when everyone in the household gave the lucky pudding a personal stir.

It takes only a half hour to make, however a proper Spotted Dick must steam for two long hours. Its ingredients are simple enough:  butter, flour, baking powder, suet, caster sugar, currants, brandy, lemon, egg, milk and double cream. Plump the fruit in simmered brandy, once all is combined, form into a roll, wrap in paper and tie the ends. Steam for over an hour, unwrap immediately, cut into thick slices and serve in warmed bowls.

One of Spotted Dick’s most important ingredients is suet, also valuable in bird feeders in winter. Suet is a form of animal fat located near the kidneys of animals. It is similar to lard, and usually sold shredded. Reportedly, it brings about a perfection in crispiness which is delightfully difficult for Brits to describe.

This Victorian suet pudding, with a snicker-forcing name, almost got renamed. It seems the powers-that-be were concerned about a slump in sales of Spotted Dick.

They reasoned, “Maybe women are too embarrassed to ask a male assistant where his “Spotted Dick” is?”

A few suggested it be renamed, “Spotted Richard.”

The Brits couldn’t do it. The name-change never took. Their spotted delight should never change. “Spotted Dick would remain Spotted Dick.”

Now, how did the stiff-upper-lip mother country ever tolerate, much less thoroughly enjoy, a confection they, themselves, must have named “Spotted Dick”? It’s simple, it seems. Spotted Dick Steamed Pudding, almost always evokes smiley eyes or looks of horror from the dullest of dull. It seems no one wants to legislate against a good chuckle now and then!

It also seems no one’s positive how the name, Spotted Dick, came about. However, the fact that the pudding, with its dark currants and other fruits becomes spotted, like a spotted dog, contributed. So did the fact that an occasional slang word for dogs was “Dicks.” So did the fact words like  “duff,” “dick” and “dog” were local words for “dough.”

So “Spotted Dick” has stuck. Even Heinz, the ketchup folks, Brit Division, sells it in a can, and it can be microwaved.

Eat up!

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