Saturday, March 1, 2008

Foreign Confections

In the past few months, I have made a couple stops at the World Market in Chesterfield, MO. Each time I have come away with some new treats, some of which I had only read about before. I confirmed that Maltesers are very similar to the U.S. candy known as Whoppers. I enjoyed gummi candy that looks and tastes like raspberries (red and black ones mixed together in one bag). I sucked hard candies with such interesting flavors as "rhubarb custard" (a flavor that Ted Drewes should try!), and "yogurt scotch" (which reminds me of a flavor of Life Savers that used to defy description). I crunched Japanese rice crackers wrapped in seaweed (not bad at all, actually). I chewed gummi candies flavored with a fruit called litchi that is evidently quite popular in southeast Asia, but virtually unknown here (the flavor was definitely weird, but not unpleasant). I gobbled up Cadbury's idea of Turkish delight (a gummy, red, fruit-flavored gel covered in milk chocolate), honeycomb (a crisp, burnt-buttery toffee shot through with air-bubbles and coated with chocolate), and other oddities. I even sent my Dad a Christmas present of hard-to-find (in the U.S.) flavors of Altoids: "curiously strong" licorice and ginger mints, which I had previously seen only once before, in a hole-in-the-wall gas station in the middle of a lonely Arizona desert.

But this morning I chased down my breakfast with something I picked up at World Market yesterday - something I have always hesitated to ask for in public - spotted dick.

It came in a can with several different ways of preparing it printed on the label. One way involves boiling the spotted dick, can and all, in a large saucepan (important: don't let the water boil dry!). But being a bachelor and not in the mood to risk burns and property damage, I went the microwave route. The result was surprising. I had always imagined spotted dick would be a damp, flabby, bland substance, like the bread pudding at Old Country Buffet. Instead it was simply a nice, spongy cake (quite dry), filled with plump, moist raisins, and liberally spiced with mace, ginger, and I know not what else. The flavor was quite interesting, the texture was far from revolting, and the shape (similar to the squat can it came out of) refused to entertain comparisons to parts of the anatomy that embarrassingly come to an American's mind when this particular pudding is offered.

See this page to look for a World Market location near you. They have locations throughout the continental US, except in the northeast and in half a dozen or so other states. I encourage you to visit one of them when you have an opportunity. You might be surprised to find something you enjoyed as a child but have never been able to find as an adult...something you read about in a book but thought was an invention of the author's...Heinz varieties that can only be sold on our soil as imports from abroad...and ingredients of meals you enjoy in foreign restaurants, but can never find at your local Kroger affiliate.

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