For my mother, it was a quick and easy dinner to make on a Sunday night. For me as a child in the 1970s in Germany, Toast Hawaii was the culinary highlight of the week: buttered toast with a slice of boiled ham and a slice of canned pineapple, topped with a processed cheese “single” and put under the broiler until the cheese is golden brown and bubbly. This type of food was quite unusual in my family, as otherwise I grew up mainly on wholesome dark bread, real cheese, and almost no processed foods. Although my mother worked a full-time job, she cooked most meals from scratch and rarely bought convenience foods. So of course as a kid I had to love Toast Hawaii!
Toast Hawaii had been introduced already in the 1950s by German TV cook Clemens Wilmenrod, and it was still going strong as a popular snack in the 1970s. Wilmenrod was not a trained chef; he cast to the wind basic cooking techniques, much to the dismay of professional chefs, and his often-odd concoctions relied heavily on canned and processed ingredients. He was also notorious for his surreptitious advertising, ostensibly displaying certain brands in front of the camera. His TV show, which ran from 1953 to 1964, was nonetheless very popular.
Other typical foods of the 1970s in Germany were white asparagus spears, usually from the can, wrapped individually in a slice of boiled ham; cheese cubes with grapes or olives on toothpicks inserted into a turned-over melon half and known as “Cheese hedgehog” (Käseigel). Its carnivore variation, the “Ground meat hedgehog” (Mettigel), takes the cake: a neatly shaped rounded heap of raw ground pork, into which ultra-thin pretzel rods or uniformly cut sticks of raw onion were inserted. Thankfully, the reluctance of German consumers to eat raw meat has relegated this atrocity mostly to 1970s theme parties.
I do admit that for pure childhood nostalgia, I order Toast Hawaii once in a while when I find it on the menu of a restaurant in Germany. The other typical foods of the 1970s are best left to the annals of food history.
The big exception is Bowle, a punch where fruit is steeped in white wine for several hours, then mixed with sparkling wine or champagne. This typical 1970s drink is still, or again, popular at summer parties in Germany. And it is delightful when made with fresh, ripe fruit. Therefore I included Strawberry and White Wine Punch (Erdbeerbowle) in my book.
Bowle is also delicious with peaches. German recipes for Bowle abound, often with sugar or liqueur added. I do not see any need for that if using fully ripened, sweet fruit of good quality, and a good wine. One easy way to adjust sweetness without adding any sugar is selecting a sweeter wine.
Thanks to a German friend who loaned me her set, we had Bowle with white peaches true to style this weekend: in an authentic Bowle serving bowl, where the cups are attached to the rim. Yet no Toast Hawaii to eat with it. And for sure no “hedgehog” of any kind…
Peach and White Wine Punch (Pfirsichbowle)
4 to 5 ripe large peaches, preferably freestone
1 organic lemon
1 bottle chilled white wine (half-dry or semi-dry is best)
1 bottle chilled champagne or sparkling wine
A few fresh mint leaves
1. Wash the peaches and cut an X in the bottom of each peach. Bring water to a boil in a wide pot. Drop the peaches into the boiling water and leave them in for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drop into a bowl of cold water.
2. When the peaches are cold enough to handle, carefully remove the skin without damaging the flesh. Halve the peaches and cut them into even bite-size chunks. Wash the lemon and cut into slices about 1/8-inch thick. Remove any seeds.
3. Place the peach chunks and the lemon slices in a punch bowl or a large glass bowl. Pour the wine over them and chill for at least 2 hours.
4. Remove the lemon slices and add the champagne and mint leaves. Serve chilled, using a decorative ladle to fill individual glasses with the punch.
Makes 12 to 16 servings