Appropriately, we are celebrating the arrival of the year of the rabbit with a rabbit-free recipe, Welsh Rarebit.
According to the online version of the Encyclopedia Britannica:
“The origins of the name are uncertain. The earliest cited use of the term Welsh rabbit was in 1725, with the alternative form rarebit (a word that has no meaning aside from this dish) appearing in 1785. A popular legend suggests that the meat-based name for this meatless dish stems from Welsh peasants for whom cheese was a substitute for the meat they could not afford. Whatever its origins, the dish is today a staple of British fare and a common pub food, often paired with a pint of beer or ale.”
However, before we delve into this week’s recipe, we need to share some information about its author, Mrs. R. F. Simoneau. Ida Dutton Randall Simoneau was born on January 5, 1867. Her parents moved to East Saginaw about 1862. Her father, James T. Randall, was one of the community’s early photographers.
Above: 1867 Birdseye View of East Saginaw.
Above: Location of James T Randall family home in 1877 atlas.
On June 20, 1892, the Saginaw Evening News announced the marriage of Ida Randall to Richard F. Simoneau. Both were members of the Um-Zoo-Ee, a social organization. According to the Saginaw Evening News: “The Um-zoo-Ee club was organized 12 years ago and during that time has had enrolled in its membership the flower of Saginaw’s youth and beauty, its alumni, so to speak, embracing in its ranks several hundred gentlemen who are now regarded as representative business men [sic.], while many of the ladies rule as queens of the household.” The same January 2, 1892 article records her attire at the group’s holiday ball: “Buff shadow silk; flowers.”
The couple was married on June 22, 1892, the Saginaw Evening News reported:
“Happily Wedded: R.F. Simoneau Leads Miss Ida Randall to the Altar
A happy wedding occurred this noon at St. Paul’s Episcopal church, in which Miss Ida Randall, an esteemed young lady of this city, was united in marriage with R.F. Simoneau, one of Saginaw’s enterprising young business men[sic.] and proprietor of the Simoneau drug store[sic.]. Rev. W.H. Gallagher officiated on the occasion, the ceremony being witnessed by a number of friends of the interested parties. At the conclusion of the ceremony the company proceeded to the residence of the bride’s mother, Mrs. Sophia M. Randall, 434 North Warren avenue, where a wedding breakfast was partaken of, after which Mr. and Mrs. Simoneau departed on a short trip, the pressure of business necessitating Mr. Simoneau’s return in the course of a few days. The hearty congratulations of hosts of friends follow the young people in their new life.”
By 1898, the Simoneaus had left Saginaw and moved to Grand Rapids. Later they lived in Chicago, eventually going their separate ways. Richard Simoneau died in Allegan, Michigan in 1918. Ida Randall Simoneau passed away in 1942 in Los Angeles.
The name Simoneau may seem vaguely familiar to Saginaw residents, even if they don’t know anyone by that name. A short street, east of Accession St. Mary’s Hospital, carries the family name. Renamed in 1890 after the consolidation of East Saginaw and Saginaw City, it was almost certainly done in honor for R.F Simoneau’s father, Leander.
The Recipe: Welsh Rarebit
Into a chafing dish rubbed with butter, put 3 tablespoonfuls of sherry or any lighter wine; when hot add 1 Ib. of cut cheese, 1 teaspoonful of dry mustard, a dash of cayenne pepper, and salt if necessary. Assist melting by occasional crushing with a fork, and add another tablespoonful of wine while boiling. When done this should be the consistency of a mayonnaise dressing. Serve quickly on hot buttered toast or large thin crackers. This amount is sufficient for six or eight persons. Mrs. R. F. Simoneau. From the Saginaw Cookbook.
Although intended to be prepared tableside in a chaffing dish, this recipe can be prepared in a double boiler. Although, after plating it in the kitchen, you will need to move briskly to the dining room – few things in life are sadder and more disappointing than a cold Welsh Rarebit.
As this recipe is very similar to William Ring’s recipe for Welsh Rarebit, featured in an earlier post, please revisit the earlier post for a more detailed discussion of the history and preparation of Welsh Rarebit: