Icelandic President splits world with pineapple pizza comments

Known as a pizza fan, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson said he was “fundamentally opposed” to the Hawaiian

Icelandic President splits world with pineapple pizza comments

[Flickr/Coyoty]

A political scandal is gripping Iceland, with the international media torn over comments made by the Nordic nation’s relatively new President, after Guðni Th. Jóhannesson said he was “fundamentally opposed” to pineapple on pizza.

It all kicked off last week when Jóhannesson, responding to questions posed by high school students in Iceland’s second city Akureyri, decided to not Kellyanne Conway his way out of a tricky one. Asked about pizza toppings, the former history lecturer made clear his distaste for the Hawaiian.

Jóhannesson then went one step further, with reports emerging of him saying if he could issue some kind of executive order, he would ban the tropical fruit, a foreign visitor to Iceland’s fiercely protected borders, from ever making its way atop a pie ever again.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Internet decided to weight in, the story shared far and wide across the social media landscape. Jóhannesson both fortified and alienated his crispy base. In the ensuing and inevitable ‘Pineapple Pizza-gate’, the politician took to Facebook yesterday afternoon to clarify his stance, releasing a bilingual statement:

The 47-year-old President, elected last June with 39% of the popular vote, has proven popular with the electorate since starting his four-year term. A refusal to accept a 20% bump in his €21,400 monthly salary, while also donating 10% of his pre-tax earnings to charity played well with the progressive population.

Jóhannesson has also been snapped picking up a pizza at a Domino’s restaurant, where he “chatted with fellow customers who awaited their pizza on offer,” claimed the news website Nútiminn, suggesting that his pineapple comments were based on rigorous research and show the Icelandic politician has a keener sense of appropriate pizza behaviour than New York mayor Bill De Blasio.

Hawaiian pizza is Canadian

Despite being named after the tropical American state, Hawaiian pizza was actually the invention of a Greek immigrant to Canada, who first served the divisive topping at the Satellite Restaurant in Chatham, Ontario in 1962.

Blending checkerboard squares of processed ham with bite-sized chunks of tinned pineapple rings, Sam Panopoulos didn’t know much about pizza when he arrived as an immigrant in Canada in 1954, having tried the Italian dish while in Naples.

After establishing his restaurant, Panopoulous wanted to open up the menu beyond the typical burger and fries his customers were used to, he spotted pizzas being made in a nearby city and decided to give them a whirl. With little working knowledge, Panopoulos began experimenting with flavour combinations, with his attention turning towards the tropical fruit thanks to the explosion in North American pop culture of Tiki.

Returning soldiers from the war on the Pacific front came back with a newfound fondness for Polynesian-style restaurants and culture, and with Hawaii finally becoming a federalised state in 1959, even Canadians were fascinated by tropical island living. So one day in 1962, Panopoulos reached for a tin of pineapple and created the Marmite of pizza toppings.

“People said ‘You are crazy to do this’,” the 83-year-old chef told Atlas Obscura in 2015, admitting that the addition of ham was an accident brought about by limited options.

For more food news on Newstalk.com, please click here.