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Comfort food and books for comfort

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Hawaiian Toast — A fast and easy snack before the kids go trick or treating — and a new haunted New Mexico book

By Christina Stock

Vision Editor

American soldiers stationed in Germany in the ‘70s who had befriended locals — or had a German girlfriend — would fall in love with an unusual party sandwich: Hawaiian Toast.

It’s a fast and easy treat, and was affordable during a time when fresh pineapples were considered an exotic and expensive luxury treat.

According to legend, the recipe was introduced in the early ‘50s by the first West-German TV cook on channel WDR out of Cologne. Similar to New Mexico, there was only one channel per region broadcasting up to three hours a day. While Stanley E. Hubbard purchased New Mexico’s first TV station KOB in 1957, the TV stations in Germany were all non-profit providing broadcasting services.

The height of the recipe’s popularity was during the disco-era, when its main ingredients became affordable: American pre-sliced white toast, American cheese and canned pineapple slices from Hawaii. Food-snobs and critics were outraged, but couldn’t stop the rise of the — really unhealthy, but oh so yummy — open-faced sandwich.

The sweet and salty treat became so popular that Depeche Mode’s Andy Fletcher named their English record label after it because of his reported fondness for the sandwich he encountered during their first tour through Germany in 1983.

Depeche Mode is an English electronic band that was formed in 1977. They were nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year.

Today, Toast Hawaii has a serious fan base, riding on the nostalgia-wave of former G.I.s, and there are retro-‘70s fashionable dance clubs and diners popping up that have the item on the menu, including the favorite adult drink of the era: Cuba Libre (meaning free Cuba — a mixed drink with rum, cola and a splash of lime juice).

For children: mix half a glass of coke with half a glass of orange lemonade — Fanta was the original choice of this popular kid’s soda. The name of the drink in German is Spezi.

Ingredients (serves four)

4 slices of toast

1 tbsp softened butter

4 slices of ham (medium thick slices)

4 slices of American cheese

4 slices of canned pineapple (well drained)

4 maraschino cherries or 4 tsp of chutney

Recipe:

Preheat the oven to 400F

Lightly toast the slices of bread and put on baking sheet.

Spread the butter evenly on the bread.

Layer as follows: a slice of ham (you can substitute ham with bologna, pastrami or turkey ham), a slice of pineapple, a slice of American cheese (or any cheese you prefer, Swiss, Munster or Gruyère works well).

Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes until the cheese is melted — depending on your preference, wait until the cheese is bubbling, turns golden brown or darker.

Remove from oven and serve with either a maraschino cherry in the center or a dollop of chutney.

Warning: Let stand and cool a little before biting into it. The cheese and pineapple are hot.

For a grownup version or for Thanksgiving leftovers, consider upgrading it with French bread instead of the regular toast, slices of leftover turkey, good cheese of your choice and instead of the cherry, add some cranberry sauce.

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Book recommendation:

Halloween is upon us and author Donna Blake Birchell has a new book out: “Haunted Hotels And Ghostly Getaways Of New Mexico.”

Blake Birchell lives in Carlsbad and specializes in little known stories about New Mexico and Texas and has seven books published. The new book features her photos which provides another creative outlet and complements her stories.

Readers in Artesia and Roswell don’t need to worry, the only towns in our area the author mentions having ghostly entities are Carlsbad and Lincoln. Other towns covered are Albuquerque, Eagle Nest, Taos, Santa Fe, Cimarron, Las Vegas, Lincoln, Chama and Hatch/Rodey, with one to two establishments and its ghosts featured.

The book is well-written and the author includes for every chapter historical background information. Unusual for history books, Blake Birchell adds present time interests, such as events, wedding venues, best shopping, some restaurants and in some cases detailed descriptions of items to purchase, such as Carl Londene’s vignettes for sale at his bed and breakfast near Albuquerque.

All-in-all, a relaxing read that may inspire readers to visit.

The ghostly encounters are not detailed or gruesome and one can read them, even at midnight on Halloween, without getting too scared.

Blake Birchell’s book, “Haunted Hotels And Ghostly Getaways Of New Mexico”, is published by Haunted America, a division of The History Press out of Charleston, South Carolina. For more information, visit historypress.com.

The book and other historical books about the region are available for purchase in Roswell at the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico Museum, 200 N. Lea Ave.

According to HSSENM executive director Amy McVay-Davis, plans are in the works to have Blake Birchell as a guest for one of the upcoming Sunday Funday events. For more information, call 575-622-8333.