Wednesday, September 28, 2011

My Spotted Dick

“Can I help you find something?”

The young lady in the green Publix apron looks up at me as earnestly as a girl scout. My mouth opens and closes like a fish. I can’t bring myself to say it. Yes, in fact there is something I’m looking for. Something I came specifically to Publix and not Krogers to buy, because I know they sell it here. In fact I’ve seen it here and marveled over it. Just can’t remember where I found it.

Even if it were condoms; extra, extra large, screaming the word “MAGNUM!!” on the box, made in bright adventurous colors that glow in the dark, lubricated with cherry flavored oil, ribbed and studded with little bells that jingle and vibrators built in, and tiny winged fairy girls that sing and dance when you roll them on, I could manage to squeak “Where is your family planning section?” and we’d both know what we’re talking about.

But this – gah.

It’s the words. It’s the words I can’t bear to conjure with.

“No, I’m fine thanks.”

“Okay,” she says and moves on, knowing intuitively I’m not fine, I’m just a stammering old fart who still doesn’t know after all these years how to tell a woman what he wants.

I cruise the aisles awhile, think it might be by the jellies and jams, its not, or by the barbeque sauces and charcoal, its not. I see a young man in a green apron, a likely lad, shelving breakfast cereal off a hand truck. With the confident stride of a Grenadier I step forward and say “Where do you put your British gourmet stuff?”

“Aisle seven, sir, down from salad dressing.”

“Thanks.” I look up at the aisle markers and head over to aisle seven. I find the British section across from salads, right next to the Chinese and Spanish stuff. There are McVities digestive biscuits, said to be a working class secret favorite of the Royal family. Treacle, a kind of cake in sweet syrup, which may be the source of the adjective “treacley”. A little jar of Marmite, which I do want and toss in my cart. And there in a can, its name defiantly intact against the efforts of the public relations munchkins is a tin of raisin sponge cake, also known as “Spotted Dick.”

If I were in England or Ireland I might have Irish Coddle, or maybe some rashers and bangers or maybe some kippers for breakfast. Rashers being English style bacon, a little like Canadian bacon, Canadian bacon being what we yanks would just call ham. Bangers are sausage, kippers are small smoked fish, usually tinned (or “canned” if you’re American.) I might have that with a cup of tea along with some biscuits. Biscuits not being the Deep South culinary cult item, which British would think of as unsweetened “scones”, but biscuits being what we would think of as cookies or even small pastries if you’re having high tea. High tea means something different too, in as much as in England high tea is what you have around four in the afternoon, whether you’re the Queen mum, or a garage mechanic, maybe with a tin of tasty chocolate covered biscuits, whereas in America high tea would be some really strong marijuana accompanied by several compulsive bags of Doritos.

Discrepancies like this exist in Spanish cultures too. In Panama “bicho” is a generic word for any kind of creepy-crawly, like the word “bug”. In Puerto Rico “bicho” is slang referring to a man’s tumescent penis, not that far away from spotted dick. In Panama the word “chicha” refers to fruit juice made by hand from raw fruit, either at home or sold on the street, such as maybe lemonade (“Dame una chicha del limon, por favor.”). In Puerto Rico, “chicha” refers to a vagina sufficiently aroused for reproductive engagement. I didn’t know this until shortly after we arrived in San Juan and went to a greasy spoon for breakfast and there was a big mosquito floating in my wife’s orange juice. She announced this by waving and yelling “Oiga! Aie un bicho grande en mi chicha!” which got the undivided attention of every male in the room.

I’m even informed that “Garce” means something rather nasty in French, but I’m okay with that. Words are images. Words are fluid. Words never stay the same but are constantly shifting in meaning from different cultures that share the same language and even from different time periods. I’m old enough to remember when Gay meant cheerful and care free. You might see a group of gay young men on a corner whistling, you know, "gayly" at young ladies. This is why words are such a traditional part of magic in all cultures from all times, because words conjure images and the images conjure reality. This is why I love words, and for me the pleasure of language is a key part of the writing life. Words are how we domesticate reality and bring it to ground especially in the world or writing and poetry.

Word processors are wonderful in this way because they give you to ability to edit and rewrite so smoothly when a better idea comes along, and there’s always a better idea somewhere. My early interest in computers in the mid 1980’s was primarily word processing machines. Many years ago I used to have a big Wang. My wife loved using my big Wang too. I miss my big Wang. It stopped working and I finally had to let go of my big Wang. I don’t know where it is now. You don’t see any big Wangs around in the stores anymore. Where did all the big Wangs go? They stopped making them? Do they make little Wangs now? Maybe in China they still have big Wangs, but not in America.

You’ll be pleased to know I got my spotted dick. I shared it with my wife, she likes spotted dick as much as any English woman. Say what you will, Spotted Dick is fantastic when its warmed up nice and hot with a gob of cold vanilla ice cream on it and it goes down good with chicha if the chicha is clean and fresh. Chicha smells bad and tastes funny when its not fresh. For a midnight treat there’s nothing like watching her licking a cold scoop of vanilla ice cream off my hot Spotted Dick and then diving into some fresh chicha afterwards. Mmmm mmmm good. Boy, I wish I had some right now. Just thinking about it makes me want to go look for some.

Think I will.

C. Sanchez-Garcia


  1. Do you have a Cost Plus near you? They sell Spotted Dick (and a few other snicker inducing British items). I've never been brave enough to try it.

  2. I know what you mean but I've never seen a cost plus store in my town. Sam's Club maybe, but I'd still have the same problem:

    "Excuse me ma'am, I'm looking for spotted dick."

    "Yes sir, its in the haggis aisle."


  3. Glad to discover that I can now comment. I won't repeat what I said in my e mail to you Chris, just to say how much I enjoyed reading and laughing at your blog.
    I do have to reveal how my husband had a book called Scouting for Boys, to funny to resist.

  4. Hi Margaret!

    I just did a google on that title and its out there along with "How Nell Scored" and some others. Gone are the days.



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