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Welsh rabbit

From Academic Kids

Welsh rabbit is a snack dish, also known as toasted cheese or (in a fake etymology) Welsh rarebit. It is one of the simple pleasures of British cuisine. It is made by grating cheese, blending it with beer or a little milk and butter, seasoning (particularly with mustard), and spreading the mixture onto hot toast; the whole is then grilled in the British fashion, that is, heated briskly from above (called broiling in North America). Classically the cheese used in Welsh rabbit is Cheddar or Double Gloucester.

The origin of the name "Welsh rabbit" is not exactly known, but most likely is a slur. In the 17th and 18th centuries it was common to use the adjective "Welsh" to mean inferior quality, even implying counterfeit. In a society where most people could snare a rabbit for the pot, a Welshman was considered by some people so hopelessly feckless that cheese melted with beer would have to substitute. Victorian-era and later recipe books often refer to this dish as "Welsh rarebit". This is a euphemism based on folk etymology (that is, this was a new word made up by people who didn't understand why the dish was called "rabbit"). The first record of the word was in 1725. There is little doubt that "rabbit" was the original form, with the alternative form "rarebit" only occurring from 1785.

In parts of the United Kingdom today, there is a tendency for the traditional name to be replaced by the more prosaic "cheese on toast" (more typically applied to a slice of dry cheese, placed on toast, then grilled) or "toasted cheese", or a jocular reference to "Welsh rarebit". A slice of bread topped with cheese, however, is not a real Welsh rabbit.

There are a number of derivatives. The buck rabbit is a Welsh rabbit with a poached egg on top, the Irish rabbit is topped with onions, vinegar, herbs, and gherkins. There is the Yorkshire rabbit which is topped with both bacon and a poached egg. Other variations include the American rabbit which is a Welsh rabbit topped with whisked egg whites, and the English rabbit which uses red wine. A dish Scotch rabbit exists, although this comes close to cheese (preferably Dunlop) on toast.

This dish in some form is also common in other European countries. It is known as "Ramequin" or "Käseschnitte", although the French often use the term "Le Welsh", interestingly sometimes associated with Irish cuisine.

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