Pineapple pizza? That’s why you don’t like it (and some do)

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There are those who love it and those, especially in Italy, who find it horrible. But why is the world divided on pineapple pizza?

Eugenio Spagnuolo

March 15

The pineapple pizza? There are those who would like to make it illegal. And, strange but true, he is not a Neapolitan master chef, but the Icelandic President Guðni Jóhannesson, who a few years ago went so far as to propose its abolition. He couldn’t, of course. But that was enough to stimulate the debate in the age of social media: is it right to stuff the pizza with exotic ingredients such as pineapple?

Pineapple Pizza: Why Do Some Like It?

The age-old question concerns everyone’s taste. And, as the ancients said, de gustobus non est disputandum. But pizza purists argue that in truth taste must also be polite. If anything, the question is why would anyone want to put pineapple on pizza? Among them there are also celebrities such as The Rock and Justin Bieber, who have publicly stated that they like it. Science has tried to give an answer, actually three …

Contrasts of taste. Combinations of sweet and salty taste are not uncommon: salted caramel, peanut butter and chocolate, cheesecake… Contrasting tastes often balance the feel of the elements in a dish. Furthermore, from an evolutionary point of view, sweetness signals the presence of an energy source, while salt indicates a balance of electrolytes, which provides a further explanation as to why we love sweet-savory combinations. And it also makes (perhaps) plausible the combination between sweet pineapple and the salty dough of pizza and tomato. Flavor: a multi-sensory experience. Taste is not the only sense that affects the way we experience food. The aroma perceived by the receptors in our nose, the physical and chemical sensations on the tongue (for example the refreshing effect of mint) together constitute a multi-sensory taste experience. And unsurprisingly, the sensations of food in the mouth also play an important role in food pairing. Often, for example, foods rich in fats such as red meats are paired with wines with an astringent character. Thus, during the meal, sipping wine together with foods rich in fat, we obtain a balance between the two sensations. A similar relationship has been observed between acids and fats, and it is the combination that is reflected in the Hawaiian pizza: the acidity of the pineapple reduces the fatty sensations of the cheese, balancing the taste experience. The hypothesis of food pairing. Then there is the theory of food combinations. One study looked at flavor pairings around the world, finding that Western cuisines rely on recipes with ingredients that share flavor compounds, while East Asian cuisines tend to pair ingredients with less similar flavor compounds. For example, if we think of the ingredients butter, flour, milk, cheese, very common in our kitchen, they have many more aromatic similarities than the ingredients used in Vietnamese cuisine. However, both cuisines are renowned. Therefore the aptitude to appreciate the Hawaiian pizza mix could depend on the food education received. Factors such as the local availability of some foods, seasonality, traditional cooking techniques can push foods towards unusual perceptual combinations for those who live in other latitudes.

Pineapple pizza: how it was born

Then there is the chance factor, which should not be underestimated. The inventor of the pineapple pizza is believed to have been the late Sotirios Panopoulos, an immigrant from Greece to Southern Ontario (Canada), who in 1962 spread cooked ham and pineapple on a cheese pizza and called it Hawaiian pizza, beginning to serve it to the customers of his restaurant (the Satellite Diner). And he got lucky. But it must be said that at the time pizza was unknown in Canada and you had to go all the way to Detroit to find a pizzeria. So if the Margherita had arrived first, who knows, maybe the pineapple on the pizza would never have ended …

March 15, 2022 – 09:40 am

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