-

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Chasing the Rabbit | An Epicurean Ode

Welsh Rarebit, the words are simple enough. The concept as easy. So, why all the confusion? “What?” you say. You’re not befuddled. Heck, I most certainly was. I was so perplexed I do believe I temporarily entered the realm of Alice’s rabbit hole!

Chasing the Rabbit | Welsh Rabbit

What is Welsh Rabbit?

What is Welsh Rarebit

Do you adore Grilled Cheese? How ‘bout Fondue? If the answer is yes, creamy melted ooey gooey cheese resting a top toasted bread or English muffin may just be your Rinktum Ditty.

Welsh Rabbit or Welsh Rarebit which is correct?

Let’s begin with the name. Which Name is Correct? Welsh Rabbit or Welsh Rarebit? Where do Rinktum Ditty and the English Monkey fit in?

An 1897 explanation from The Gentleman Farmer

Welsh Rabbit—Before proceeding to enumerate several other recipes for making this much discussed compound, let us proceed to the settlement of its name. We have been asked why we called it and spelled it "rabbit" instead of "rarebit." The question of its correct orthography is as unsettled as its proper mode of making…The growing popularity of the Welsh rabbit as a luncheon dish for after theater suppers and card parties, and other informal social gatherings, makes it quite essential that its origin and name should be definitely settled and correctly understood.

The dish originated, or was at least popularized, in the district of Wales, from which it derived its patronymic. The Century Dictionary alludes to this name as "a term of jocular origin, formed after the fashion of Norfolk capon, a red herring, etc." In this connection it says, "Owing to an absurd notion that rabbit in this phrase is a corruption of rarebit (as if a 'rare-bit'), the word is often so written.”

A modern explanation from the University of Wyoming’s article; Say “Cheese” with Welsh Rabbit which also happens to include a recipe for Welsh Rabbit from Chowning’s Tavern in Colonial Williamsburg.

Welsh Rarebit
The history about this dish is rather unclear. The dish originated in Wales, and it seems to have been born from economic necessity. Some say the Welsh invented it as a consolatory meal after an unsuccessful hunt. Others say it’s a tavern dish inspired by the Welsh love of cheese. As Caroline Russock phrases it… “In 18th century England, rabbit was the meat you ate if you were poor, and the Welsh were so poor that they couldn’t afford rabbit, so they ate cheese.”

Then there’s the issue with the name – rabbit or rarebit? According to folk legend, Welsh Rarebit was originally “Welsh Rabbit,” and it was meant to cast slander on the Welsh, who allegedly were not very skilled at catching rabbits. During the late 18th century, derogatory terms such as rabbit became frowned upon in polite company and the name evolved into rarebit, meaning a choice morsel. Today, rarebit has come to mean tasty morsels of bread covered in a mustardy cheese sauce.

As for the Rinktum Ditty, (Rum Tum Ditty) apparently, it’s a child’s classic comfort dish “gussied” up with tomatoes or tomato soup; a Tomato Rabbit or a Blushing Bunny:) The soup version is smoother and easier to make. It becomes a delicious sauce to serve on toast or, the kiddies can enjoy a sort of fondue with bites of toasted bread speared and ready for dunking!

Rum Tum Ditty | Tomato Rarebit

Again from The Gentleman Farmer:

…The first thing to know is that the rabbit is itself a relish, and to employ condiments freely in its making is to mistake the nature and proper use of the dish. Therefore to so possess it with double pomp is wasteful and ridiculous excess. It is peculiarly a luncheon, never a meal, and entirely out of place as a dessert. It is the most exclusive dish in the long menu of edibles. It will sulk and be sullen in the company of the aristocratic terrapin or canvas-back, and it will rebel and resent the presence of the plebeian liver, codfish, or chitterlings. It must be eaten entirely alone. You may, however, surround it with the most promiscuous conglomerate of potations pottle deep, and it will float about in perfect harmony with each and all. It is essentially a toper, and it is all the same, whether it indulges in the smoky "usquebaugh” of the Irish, of the Scots, the rich "old port” of the Londoners, the fragrant "eau de vie” of the French, the fierce "arrack” of the Russians, or the delicate "lachrymae Christi” of the Italians. It will hold them all steady, and even walk off, arm in arm, with its old friend, "Colonel Jag” of Kentucky, without reeling. It is a great soberer, and particularly effective in guiding towards home the feet of the erring…

I should note here, a Kentucky version of the Welsh Rabbit might very well be The Kentucky Hot Brown.

Kentucky Hot Brown

So, what makes a perfect Welsh Rarebit? The Guardian has a rather in depth article on just that!

”The confusion that exists in the minds of so many people, as to the difficulty of making a rabbit, arises from the strain that is placed upon points in the making that are wholly immaterial to the result. Some insist that ale should be used to thin the cheese; others are quite as decided in favor of milk; if you wish to see how little either of these methods amount to you may try water, and you will succeed very well. Our opinion is that the cheese is less refractory with milk. Others, again, think an egg should be used. If the cheese is very stringy, and this not desirable (though most people prefer it so), the yolk may be stirred in just at the end of the making. The egg smoothes or shortens the cheese, but blunts the pungent flavor somewhat. It is much better to poach it, and drop it on top of the rabbit when served; it then becomes a Golden Buck.
Make your toast of fresh bread, if you have it, and cut the slices moderately thick, that it may be soft. The rabbit should be eaten quickly, and it is a mistake to keep one working long and hard upon tough old crusts. A little practice is all that is necessary to place you where all the points of making can be easily covered. You can only make the rabbit by being an expert: it is much like compounding a fine mayonnaise dressing, the evil one seems to be in every ingredient, with a new beginner; but practice soon supplies a touch to the expert that will exorcise them into harmonious fellowship.”The Gentleman Farmer
Buch Rabbit | Welsh Rabbit with a poached egg

Yes, a Golden Buck is simply a Welsh Rabbit with a poached egg dropped in:) So revered is the dish of Welsh Rabbit the author of The Bachelor and the Chafing Dish published in 1895, devoted an Epicurean Ode to it’s existence.

Rhyming Welsh Rabbit Recipe
…And the reed bird (who isn’t a sparrow)
Has a sweetness all his own,
As sweet as the splendid marrow
In the depths of a well-grilled bone.
But these dainties are rand and bitter,
And their finest witchery pales,
In the light of the golden glitter
Of the rabbit that comes from Wales.

We still haven’t touched on the English Monkey. It seems that we humans are not always satisfied with simple. For some reason, we just like to stir things up every now and again. Of course, that leads us to what cookbooks like to call “variations.” An English Monkey is just one of those many novelties made without ale or beer. For those of you wishing to explore, I give you An English Monkey on Bean and Nut Loaf. Enjoy:)

The Boston Cooking School Cook Book by Fannie Farmer offered this recipe for an English Monkey in 1918.
English Monkey
1 cup stale bread crumbs
1/2 cup soft mild cheese, cut in small pieces
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
Few grains cayenne

Soak bread crumbs fifteen minutes in milk. Melt butter, add cheese, and when cheese has melted, add soaked crumbs, egg slightly beaten, and seasonings. Cook three minutes, and pour over toasted crackers which have been spread sparingly with butter.

And if you’re so inclined, an Oyster Rabbit:
Oyster Rarebit
1 cup oysters
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
Few grains cayenne
1/2 lb. soft mild cheese, cut in small pieces
2 eggs

Clean, parboil, and drain oysters, reserving liquor; then remove and discard tough muscle. Melt butter, add cheese and seasonings; as cheese melts, add gradually oyster liquor, and eggs slightly beaten. As soon as mixture is smooth, add soft part of oysters. Serve on unsweetened wafer crackers or bread toasted on one side, rarebit being poured over un-toasted side.

Marion Harland’s Complete Cookbook published in 1906 included this recipe for Nonpareil Rarebit:

Nonpareil Welsh Rabbit | Marion Harland

I hope you’ve enjoyed your visit for National Cheese Day:) Is there a day to celebrate Welsh Rabbit? Why of course there is, mark your calendars kiddies, it’s September 3rd!!!
Resources
1. The Gentleman Farmer @Google Books
2. The Bachelor and the Chafing Dish by Deshler Welch-1895
3. Rinktum Ditty: An Arizona Logger's Treat
4. Spanish Welsh Rarebit (and a link to a whole slew of Welsh rabbit recipes)
5. Baked Potato With Ring Tum Ditty from Paula Deen
Welsh Rabbit images courtesy of wiki:)

51 Nibbles:

Shirley Tay said...

Errr...... no rabbit food here?? I was actually looking fwd to some rabbit meat since I've not tried any. Hahaha! xoxo

Katerina said...

I have made just once welsh rabbit and we loved it. You reminded me how delicious it is and your photos had me craving for some! Hugs!

Mae Travels said...

Hi Louise... That's quite fascinating. So many ways to use cheese. Of course I didn't know it was cheese day today. I'm still so happy that your blog is back with us.

I explored another side of Welsh Rabbit/Rarebit a while ago: I wondered why it was considered an American dish by French people in the 1920s. I learned that in the 18th century "Brillat-Savarin brought the recipe back to France from America after a period of exile during the French Revolution, according to a New York Times article: "His poverty and anguish during his two years in New York and its vicinity did not prevent him from visiting Fraunces and other good taverns and bringing back to France a recipe for welsh rarebit." ("Americans Hear Tribute to Savarin" by May Birkhead, NYT, Sept. 18, 1927). And that Julia Child's family considered this dish an example of good, plain New England cooking, which is consistent with your research.

My blog post on the issue here: http://maefood.blogspot.com/2014/07/why-welsh-rarebit.html

best from mae at maefood.blogspot.com

Kitchen Riffs said...

Terrific post! I love this dish. And actually have had it on my posting "to do" list for what seems like forever. One of these days I'll get to it, but maybe not -- you've done such a terrific job. Really informative -- I learned a lot. Thanks!

Poppy Crocker said...

Welsh rabbit was one of the first recipes I tried to make on my own when I was little! I wanted to cook something and found the recipe in my mom's big red Betty Crocker cookbook. We didn't have the exact ingredients the recipe called for, so I decided to make some substitutions. (I don't remember exactly what they were, although I'm pretty sure I used pre-shredded taco cheese for at least some of the Cheddar.) By the time I was done, the Welsh Rabbit was so stringy that it was hard to get out of the pan! We had to really struggle to get it over the toast, and kind of mash it in because it only wanted to stick to itself. We still ate it, though, and I thought it tasted fine. Ha!

~ Nee ~ said...

Hi Louise , been away , think of you and Marion each day . My kids love the Golden Buck ... Now I can tell the name of the dish , a Welsh Rabbit with an egg dropped in and that will call for more explaining [giggling] I enjoyed your post as always , I will be taking a break , needed at the property . I will keep up with your posts . Hugs to you and marion , keep those toes wigglings . Thanks for sharing Nee :)

Marjie said...

My grandmother took me to a fancy-pants restaurant for lunch when I was about 12, and I had Welsh Rabbit; I loved it. I've never tried making it, but you might just have inspired me!

Karen Luvswesavory said...

Hi Louise,
Oh ! not chasing "English Monkey" but may try out the recipe as it look yummy! hee .. hee.. I'm kinda confused too Welsh Rabbit vs Welsh Rarebit. But the dishes looked cheesy yummy good. Thanks for sharing ^-^

Gloria Fernandes said...

Hi Lousie,
First of all A very Happy New year...I'm so happy to see your post ...I have never tasted or heard about Welsh Rabit..it looks so good

~~louise~~ said...

Lol, you're funny Shirley. Not today:)

~~louise~~ said...

So glad you enjoyed this post, Katerina. I would LOVE to know how your rabbit turns out:)

~~louise~~ said...

Hi Mae,
Thank you so much for garnishing this post, Mae. I had read about Brillat-Savarin but I don't think it was in a Times article. Thank you for your kind words and for leaving the link. I'll be sure and check it out...

kitchen flavours said...

Hi Louise,
Interesting! Many years ago, I thought Welsh Rabbit is a dish made from rabbit meat! I found out it was not, and I always wonder why it was named as such!
Hope you and Marion have a lovely weekend!

Margaret Ullrich said...

Hi, Louise!
What a fun post to read! Folks in Malta picked up a few British recipes over the years and Welsh Rarebit was an old comfort food for us kiddies (with milk).

Oh, Shirley Tay, we also ate rabbit. As beef is to Texas, rabbit is to Malta. I posted a recipe for Rabbit Stew, Maltese Style if anyone is curious, or has had better luck than the Welsh did :-)
http://imturning60help.blogspot.ca/2014/08/anna-sultanas-stuffat-tal-fenek-rabbit.html

I Wilkerson said...

Oooooo, "tuna rarebit" was one of our favorite foods growing up. In fact I'm not sure I would have made it to adulthood without it. Alas my mother made it with velveeta (gee not even sure I can spell that), which didn't pass the "natural test" and my kids grew up without it.

But I could sure go for some now! (Just once)

Marcela said...

Wow! So interesting! My mom used to cook rabbit from time to time when I was a kid. It brings back good memories

Dawn Yucuis said...

Louise, such a great post. I never knew that Welsh Rarebit/Rabbit was made with cheese. Very interesting!! Thanks for sharing!!

Storybook Woods said...

First off let me say dang you made me hungry. Fun read. I think I've got it ;-) Clarice

Cakelaw said...

I laughed - I had never heard it called Welsh rabbit before, nor had I heard of English monkey - a fun post.

Geraldine Saucier said...

I haven't had Welsch Rabbit in years. I remember it being delicious. I need to make it again soon.

Pam said...

Whatever the name Rarebit/Rabbit - it looks tasty to me. I also really want to try a Kentucky Hot Brown someday - it looks so decadent!!!

Brandi said...

I've never heard of this dish! That's what's so fun about visiting your blog, Louise- you teach me something new each time!!!

Kari said...

I haven't had Welsh Rarebit for years but did enjoy it as a child. Thanks for the historical tour!

Kate said...

Love your post! I appreciate your sharing the research. I learned so much and totally enjoyed reading about Welsh Rarebit/Rabbit... :-) Thank you for visiting my blog today.

~~louise~~ said...

Thank you John. I'm so glad you enjoyed this post. It was fun to research! You might want to rethink that "to do" list. After all, Welsh Rabbit Day is in September. By that time we all might be craving it, lol...Thanks so much for visiting...

~~louise~~ said...

Thanks for sharing that story Poppy. At least after all of that it still tasted good. And, another memory was made:)

~~louise~~ said...

We think of you too, Nee. Miss you:) I wish I could see the kids faces when you tell them about the Golden Buck. I bet they giggle, lol...We''l be here when you're ready Nee. You take care and wiggle those toes!!!

~~louise~~ said...

I hope this post did inspire you Marjie. With the weather we've been having, Welsh Rabbit may just be one we all need!

~~louise~~ said...

Cheesy and yummy just about sums it up, Karen. I'm sorry you're confused about the two names but to be perfectly honest, you are not alone:) They are one in the same just spelled differently. Thanks for popping by.

~~louise~~ said...

Thank you Gloria:) It's going to be a GREAT year! You might want to try it one day. It's oh so comforting:)

Kit @ i-lostinausten said...

Hi Louise , Very interesting post! I've never heard of Welsh Rarebit before but it sure looks appetizing ! Thanks for sharing this awesome post . Learnt alot from all your posts . Since I'm going to work full time in a couple of weeks , I will not be able to blog that often . Thinking of just stop blogging but I will surely visit your blog . Love reading your sweet blog . Regards to Marion ;)

~~louise~~ said...

Many people have thought the same thing, Joyce. I'm hoping this post cleared it up just a little bit:) Marion and I are doing just great! Thank you for asking:)

~~louise~~ said...

So glad you enjoyed it Margaret. I must say, that link you left was quite interesting, thank YOU!

~~louise~~ said...

I read that the reason Cheez Wiz was "invented" was because of the popularity of Welsh Rabbit. Perhaps it's the same for Velveeta! I do think you should introduce your kids to tuna rabbit, though. You know, you're never too old, lol...

Gloria Baker said...

Dear Louise I dont had idea was the chocolate day!! Amazing!! Your post look delicious and tempting!!
Hugs to you dear Louise :) :)

Gloria Baker said...

Sorry I put the chocolate in rabbit post lol
Love this plate Louise. Now I go to chocolate post!!

Shaheen said...

I didn't realise there were so many other versions of Welsh Rarebit/Rabbit around the world and each interesting. And also such debate and discussion around its name. I haven't made Welsh Rarebit in ages and you have me hankering for some, have a lovely week.

~~louise~~ said...

So glad you enjoyed it, Marcela...

~~louise~~ said...

Thanks Dawn. Glad you liked it!

~~louise~~ said...

Sorry for making you hungry Clarice. Sounds like a good time for Welsh Rabbit!

~~louise~~ said...

Delighted to bring a smile to your face, Gaye:)

~~louise~~ said...

You should make some soon, Geraldine. It's oh so comforting:)

~~louise~~ said...

You should try them both Pam. I have a feeling the kids will like them:)

~~louise~~ said...

Thank you Brandi. So sweet of you:)

~~louise~~ said...

You are more than welcome Kari. Enjoy:)

~~louise~~ said...

So glad you enjoyed it Kate. Your blog is delicious reading. I will be back!

~~louise~~ said...

I was surprised too, Shaheen. Better quench that hankering, lol...Thank you so much for dopping by:)

~~louise~~ said...

So glad you enjoyed it, Kit:) Congratulations on your job. Don't you worry about stopping by as long as everything is ok in your corner of the world:)

~~louise~~ said...

Everyday should be chocolate cake day, Gloria!

~~louise~~ said...

Lol, you are soooo cute, Gloria....

Shaheen said...

I've made some Welsh Rarebit Scones recently and will be linking to you informative post in the next few days, hope that is okay with you Louise.