Welsh Rabbit contains no rabbit. Its main ingredient is melted cheese. One theory about the name is that it’s supposed to be a joke: when only well-off people could afford butcher’s meat, rabbit was considered the poor-man’s meat in England; but in Wales, cheese was the poor-man’s rabbit.
The only time I’ve ever eaten Welsh Rabbit was at Moby’s vegetarian cafe called teany on the Lower East Side. It was listed as Welsh Rarebit on the menu, a popular variation on the name Welsh Rabbit. I’d never heard of it before, and had no idea really what I was ordering. It was delicious. But it may have had some sort of vegan cheese substitute; I don’t remember.
Anyway, apparently there was some concern over cheese back in 1911. It was feared that it could not be digested as well as meat. So the government ran some tests.
The United States Government has given [cheese] fair trial before that august organization, the Department of Agriculture, and has acquitted her of all the dire charges that have been cumulatively piled up against her through the years that have passed. One after another, in the face of the facts, have these charges evaporated into thin air. One after another have those food products deemed fittest by the dietary orthodox entered the lists with despised cheese and been unhorsed. When the battling was over there was but one claimant for honors remaining as a competitor to cheese and that competitor was the humble bean. All the others of those staple foods that go to make up the breakfast, dinner and supper of the ninety millions had gone down in defeat.
Now the Department of Agriculture reports that cheese is as digestible as the average meats. It carries, weight for weight, twice the nourishment that is contained in your Britisher’s beef. It has as much nourishment as its weight in bacon or ham, and is more digestible. A pound of it is worth in nourishment three pounds of fish. And, greatest surprise of all, one pound of cheese has as much body-building material in it as has two pounds of the much-touted product of the over-worked American hen.
They are very excited about their cheese. If you consider yourself a cheese connoisseur, you will enjoy the excessive detail in the rest of the article.
WELSH RABBIT AS HARMLESS AND WHOLESOME AS MEAT: No More Can the Chafing Dish Product Be Blamed for Nightmares, Since Cheese Is Perfectly Digestible According to Tests Made by Government Experts (PDF)
From March 12, 1911