Forgotten Foods: reviving weird old food and figuring out what should be brought back

Meg Favreau writes, "I thought you guys might be interested in this column I've been writing for the last year-ish -- I scour old cookbooks for once-popular recipes that have fallen out of favor, explore the (often weird) history of the food, and provide a recipe. Favorites include Welsh rarebit (the OG bachelor food, cooked in proto-microwave chafing dishes, and known for causing dreams so batshit that Little Nemo creator Winsor McCay did a long-running strip just about rarebit nightmares), beef tea (the chicken soup of its day, which tastes like hamburger water in the best way), and a Halloween about a booklet that juxtaposes candy recipes with testimonials about feminine ills (That ended up being posted on Table Matters' non-food sister site).

And if the chafing dish is the lady, Welsh rarebit is its lord. The Bachelor and the Chafing Dish actually says exactly that, describing, “toasted or cooked cheese” – the base of rarebits – as “the king of the chafing-dish.” 1900′s The Bachelor Book, meanwhile, notes that Welsh rarebit is an excellent after-theater food, and says this about serving the rarebit in perfect bachelor style:

If there is one bachelor there should be one pretty girl, two bachelors, two pretty girls, ad infinitum, to say nothing about the chaperone, who may be pretty or ugly so long as she is shortsighted and harmonizes with your decorations.

But having an excuse to hang out with pretty ladies (“Hey baby, wanna come back to mine for some hot cheese sauce?”) isn’t the only reason why Welsh rarebit was eaten as an evening food. See, Welsh rarebit was traditionally served as what Taco Bell has tried to tactfully call FourthMeal – late-night drunk food. It has all the hallmarks of today’s post-bender eats – cheesy, fatty, with plenty of bread to soak up the booze. (OK, I don’t think that actually works, but it’s what I’ve tried to convince myself was happening every time I’ve had a misguided late-night burger.) What’s interesting about Welsh rarebit’s typical late-evening consumption, though, is that the dish is also supposed to induce absolutely batpoop-crazy dreams.

Forgotten Foods (Thanks, Meg!)