Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit

Make the Golden Buck, a delicious variation of Welsh rabbit (cheese sauce over toast).
Ready or not, here comes the foreteller who lives within the hedgerow.

That’s right, our furry friend Punxsutawney Phil will forecast the early (or late) arrival of spring this Friday. Most folks recognize seasonal change as something beyond any control, yet each year on Groundhog Day we willingly accept (with fingers crossed) Phil’s imperfect soothsaying.

Why do these ancient prognosticating traditions continue?

It all comes down to the desire to see one’s future stacked favorably. As long as it’s low-impact, predictable, positive (and easily dealt with if it’s not), folks don’t mind some looming change.

The groundhog is by far America’s most widely-recognized weather oracle, but sheep, cows, birds, frogs, and insects have all unknowingly served as predictors of weather. Beyond weather, various animals suspected of possessing soothsaying skills have been employed to predict romance (the appearance of assorted birds), good fortune (wandering goats), and the outcome of sports games (one very clever octopus).

This enigmatic visual puzzle appears everywhere from
England’s medieval churches to China’s Buddhist caves
to German springerle cookie molds.
Many animals serve as lucky talismans, no special circumstance required. A cricket offers home safety; a carp endows tranquility; a bear, strength. Rabbits are a universal symbol of good fortune, fertility, and health. In some parts of Northern Europe, this belief was so strong that newborn babies were presented with a white rabbit to ensure a prosperous life.

The German riddle, “Three hares sharing three ears, yet every one of them has two” refers to an arcane symbol found throughout the world. The original meaning of the trio of rabbits running in an endless loop is lost, but in modern times it’s viewed as a lucky emblem of wholeness, infinity, perfection, or fertility, depending on the audience.

According to a century-old belief, shouting, “Rabbit, rabbit, white rabbit!” first thing in the morning on the first day of the month will bring good luck that entire month. That is, unless you’re a sailor at sea, where mentioning rabbits (or pigs, cats, foxes, churches, etc.) was rumored to invite bad luck onto the ship.

Others believe that if the last thing spoken on the last day of the month is “Black Hare” and the first words spoken on first day of the month are “White Hare”, an unexpected gift will arrive during that month. Folks usually see little distinction between a hare and a rabbit, but gift seekers, beware: folkloric rabbits are known to be benevolent bunnies, while hares are invariably crafty tricksters.

Although rabbits will happily make use of a groundhog den to avoid inclement weather, there’s no evidence that our chosen weather prognosticator ever benefits from the lucky lapin’s stay. No matter.

We’re hedging our bets for an early spring, starting with a sizzling Welsh rabbit.

Never heard of a Welsh rabbit? The aboriginal Welsh rabbit is a delicious affair of cheese, ale, and toast. Modern rabbit hounds hunt variations of this dish with determined vigor: the Golden Buck is an auspicious dish suitable for weather foul or fair, morning or night.

Golden Buck

Serves 4

The Golden Buck
Sometimes called a Buck Rabbit, this most British of recipes works equally well as breakfast or midnight bite. Slather mustard on the toast instead of butter, nestle some thick-cut bacon between the egg and cheese, and you have a Yorkshire Buck.
  • 1/2 cup pale ale, porter, or stout, at room temperature
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mace (or nutmeg)
  • Dash cayenne, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 pound grated Cheddar cheese (about 3 cups)
  • 4 slices country white bread
  • 4 poached eggs
  • Butter, for bread
  • For Yorkshire Buck
  • 4 slices cooked thick-cut bacon
  • English mustard, for bread
In a small bowl, lightly beat together ale, yolks, Worcestershire sauce, mace, salt, and pepper; set aside.

In a double boiler, bring 1 inch water to a full simmer (do not bring to a full boil). Add butter and cheese to top half of double boiler, stirring steadily with wooden spoon until cheese is melted, about 3 minutes. Slowly add liquid mixture to the melted cheese, stirring constantly until thickened, smooth, and creamy, about 5 minutes more. Note: melted cheese sauce can be held in double boiler while toast is made.

Spread butter (or mustard for Yorkshire Buck) on one side of toast. Place toast slices on individual plates buttered side down, top with cheese sauce, (add bacon for Yorkshire Buck), place poached egg on top, and serve immediately.
The Golden Buck, with side salad and tasty porter.