Welsh rarebit or Welsh rabbit is a dish made with a savory sauce of melted cheese and various other ingredients and served hot over toast. The origin of the name is unknown. Calling a cheese dish “rabbit” may be related to the Welsh love of cheese, but is more likely an ironic reference to their notorious poverty in the 18th century. The term “rarebit” is the result of an etymologizing alteration, first used in 1785. There are an enormous number of variations and some recipe books even have multiple recipes.
Two recipe books published at the turn of the 19th century provide one recipe for rarebit using an ale and one that does not. According to the American satirist Ambrose Bierce, the continued use of rarebit was an attempt to rationalize the absence of rabbit, writing in his 1911 Devil’s Dictionary: “RAREBIT n. A Welsh rabbit, in the speech of the humorless, who point out that it is not a rabbit”. Welsh rarebit is mentioned several times in Harvard Stories: Sketches of an Undergraduate published in 1895, which clearly refers to a recipe using beer. It is also a title of a Crimson article, published April 6, 1931, discussing the establishment of a Gaelic University in the Scottish Highlands.
Yonatan Kogan ’12, Eliot House
Photo by tristankenney