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Toast Hawaii is a type of open sandwich made with slices of ham and pineapple on a piece of toast, covered in melted cheese, and topped with a single maraschino cherry. These unique sandwiches have been a staple of German cuisine since they were popularized in the 1950s. Toast Hawaii is a variation of Hawaiian pizza, a type of pizza topped with cheese, pineapple chunks, and pieces of ham.
Clemens Wilmenrod was the first and one of the most famous German television cooks. In the 1950s, Wilmenrod invented toast Hawaii and brought it to the German public, introducing the dish on his television program. Forever after, he was associated with this one-of-a-kind creation, which became a popular, easy-to-prepare meal in many German kitchens throughout the ensuing decades.
It is thought that toast Hawaii was inspired by the grilled Spamwich, the recipe for which first appeared in the late 1930s in a cookbook published by Hormel, the producer of Spam®. With the Spamwich, a piece of Spam® and a slice of cheese were grilled either open-faced or between two pieces of bread. The addition of a pineapple slice and a maraschino cherry instantly gave the sandwich a taste of the tropics, and toast Hawaii was born.
Toast Hawaii has maintained its popularity among Germans. It is as famous and well-understood to a German as a hamburger is to an American or a croque monsieur is to a French person. Just about any restaurant in Germany will know how to whip up toast Hawaii, even if the sandwich isn't on the menu.
The classic version of toast Hawaii consists of a slice of bread, either white or whole wheat, that has been very lightly buttered. On top of this, a slice or two of ham is placed; one can use a single slice of thicker-cut deli ham or a few slices of ham luncheon meat. With the ham atop the buttered bread, a pineapple ring — or two, if there is room — is arranged over the ham, followed by a slice of cheese. The type of cheese used depends entirely upon one's personal taste; popular choices include cheddar, Emmentaler, and Gruyère.
Once assembled, the toast Hawaii is placed in the oven. It bakes until the cheese is melted and the bread is lightly browned. After it is removed from the oven and arranged on the plate, a single maraschino cherry is placed in the center of the cheese-covered pineapple ring. The finished product is traditionally eaten with a knife and fork.