London Daily

Focus on the big picture.
Wednesday, Feb 21, 2024

A pizza topping that divides the world

A pizza topping that divides the world

In the 1960s, a chef in Canada created a pizza topping that swept the world. So why is it so widely loved – and hated?

It's not Hawaii you should thank – or indeed blame, depending on your viewpoint.

The man popularly credited with giving the world the ham and pineapple pizza was neither Hawaiian, nor in fact Italian. Sam Panopoulos was a Greek immigrant to Canada who ran a restaurant with his brothers in the city of Chatham, Ontario. Panopoulos had recently visited Naples – the birthplace of pizza – and was inspired to start adding the Italian staple to the restaurant's usual line-up of burgers and pancakes. But what to put on it?

Panopoulos pushed past the then-standard toppings such as mushroom and pepperoni and turned to south-of-the-border inspiration – in this case, the sweet-and-sour flavours which characterised America's take on Chinese food. On top of a cheese-and-tomato-sauce pizza base, he spread canned pineapple and sliced ham, perhaps influenced by the sweet-and-salty taste of Chinese dishes pairing pork and pineapple.

Depending on which side of the divide you stand, a classic dish, or a culinary crime, was born.

Few foods divide as dramatically as ham and pineapple pizza. In many parts of the US, UK and Australasia, few pizza menus seem complete without it. In Italy, however, the pairing is widely considered an abomination. It has even led to international disputes between world leaders and diplomatic interventions. Why is it so divisive?

"I guess you might call it a fusion food, before the term became popular. And, of course, sweet is the most-liked taste, so it is an easy win in that sense," says Charles Spence, an experimental psychologist who studies how our different senses affect our experience of food at the University of Oxford.

Panopoulos' pairing of processed ham and pineapple coincided with the release of the Tropical Recipe Book by Australian food processing company Golden Circle. They were – surprise, surprise – a major producer of canned pineapple, and the book's cover shows pineapple rings gracing a cooked ham. A decade before, a TV cook introduced post-war Germany to a treat called Toast Hawaii, consisting of a pineapple ring, cooked ham and sliced cheese, all cooked under the grill. This may have in fact been a German reworking of the Grilled Spamwich, a spam-and-pineapple recipe which had come over with US soldiers stationed in West Germany after World War Two. All combined the characteristic sweetness of pineapple with the salty, umami foil of processed pork.

Pork and pineapple is, of course, not the only fruit and meat pairing in world cuisine. In France, duck is paired with a sweet orange sauce. Iranian pilaf mixes lamb with pomegranate. American Thanksgiving dinners would not be the same without cranberry sauce accompanying the traditional turkey, or the marshmallows and yams.

The German recipe for Toast Hawaii – melted cheese, ham and pineapple – could be considered a precursor to the Hawaiian pizza


So why would that work? As the recent explosion in salted-caramel treats has shown us, salty and sweet flavours intrinsically work together. It creates something known as "flavour-layering". This layering causes the brain to react with positive signals, sensing the combination of sweetness – and its carbohydrate fuel – and salt, which is vital for bodily functions.

And pineapple certainly packs a punch in the sweetness department. About 12-15% of a pineapple's weight comes from sugar – mainly sucrose, but also glucose and fructose. Yet pineapples are also fairly acidic, with a pH of between 3-4, depending on the variety (for context, lemon juice has a pH of between 2-3.) Much like that in a can of cola – which is also surprisingly acidic at pH 2-3 – the sugar offsets the tartness and makes it palatable, even enjoyable.

At mild heating temperature, its fruity aroma is quickly released, but its intensity gets lower and lower with increases of heating temperature and time – Zhimin Xu


Some people, however, are more sensitive to certain tastes than others. Genetic factors are thought to play a role in how much we each enjoy sour tastes, and scientists have found that people who carry variants of a specific gene called TAS2R38 can be more or less sensitive to bitter compounds. Similarly, our liking for sweet tastes is also influenced by our genes and can affect how much sugary food we eat. It is likely, perhaps, that whether someone likes pineapple on their pizza or not, comes down to their genes.

This makes even more sense when you consider what happens when pineapple is cooked.

"There are many chemical reactions when pineapple is being heated, as it contains a lot of sugars and organic acids," says Zhimin Xu, a food scientist who studies the volatile chemicals that contribute to flavour at Louisiana State University Agricultural Center in Baton Rouge, US. He and his colleagues have studied exactly what happens to pineapple when it is cooked at different temperatures.

The recipe’s popularity rests perhaps with the balance of salty ham against sweet pineapple


"At mild heating temperature, its fruity aroma is quickly released, but its intensity gets lower and lower with increases of heating temperature and time, while the bread-like aroma increases during heating," he says. "Heated pineapple also has less sweet-and-sour taste compared with fresh-cut pineapple."

But it's when pineapple is heated at high temperatures that things start to get interesting. Most frozen and shop-bought pizzas cooked in domestic ovens at home spend 10-20 minutes in temperatures of 200C-220C (392F-428F), but in a woodfired pizza oven, temperatures can reach more than 500C (932F) and the pizza needs less than a couple of minutes.

Xu and his colleagues found that at temperatures between 200C-225C (392F-437F), the balance of volatile compounds – those that easily become vapour at room temperature and so often contribute to odours and flavours in food – started to change dramatically.

It could be that some people may not like the sweet taste of pineapple when it goes with salty pizza ingredients such as ham, sausage, cheeses - Zhimin Xu


First, the amount of a compound called ethyl acetate, which gives pineapple a fruity smell, decreased considerably at higher temperatures. Meanwhile the levels of a compound called furfural, which imparts an almond and bready flavour, increased dramatically. While some many find this appealing, the bitter taste of almonds is one that regularly polarises opinion.

At the highest temperature tested, however, the sweet, caramel compound 5-methyl furfural became the second most dominant after furfural, helping to enhance a sweet aroma over the fruity one of fresh pineapple. Xu suspects this sweetening of the fruit as it cooks may lie at the heart of why so many people feel strongly about its presence on pizza.

"It could be that some people may not like the sweet taste of pineapple when it goes with salty pizza ingredients such as ham, sausage, cheeses," he says. "However, some people may like the sweet-and-sour taste to balance the salty taste of pizzas. Some pizza ingredients, especially in frozen pizza, are much saltier than before, so topping with some sweet stuff can neutralise the salty taste. Maybe, it opened the door for pineapple to become a popular pizza topping."

But his research also throws up another intriguing finding. Among the other compounds to increase in the pineapple as it is heated were two called 2-methylbutanal and 3-methylbutanal, which impart a distinctive nutty flavour. These are also both found in a key ingredient used in pizza – the cheese. They are most common in hard cheeses such as cheddar, but can also be found in mozzarella.

Pineapple’s sweetness has often been seen as a foil for the saltiness of cured ham


And this leads to another intriguing theory proposed by a group of data scientists in 2011. After analysing the ingredient combinations in common recipes from around the world, they produced a flavour network that paired foods that shared flavour compounds. They found that in Western cuisines, there was a tendency to pair ingredients that share flavour compounds, while East Asian cooking tended to use ingredients with few compounds in common.

Astringent and acidic flavours are commonly used in cooking as palate cleansers between courses, largely because they cut through the oil and fat. One team of French and US researchers revealed that repeatedly alternating samples of astringent drinks with fatty foods helps to lower the overall sensation of fattiness and bitterness than would be experienced when rinsing with water or not alternating between bites. So, it is possible that the acidity of the pineapple chunks gives a regular palate cleanse every couple of bites, helping to make the next mouthful of doughy, tomato and cheesy goodness all the more enjoyable.

But most pineapple used on pizzas comes from cans rather than being freshly cut, so does that impact on the flavour at all?

The battle between ham-and-pineapple lovers and haters has even sparked a not-entirely-serious diplomatic dispute


The battle between ham-and-pineapple lovers and haters has even sparked a not-entirely-serious diplomatic dispute. In 2017, the president of Iceland, Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson, told an audience of school children that he was so fundamentally opposed to pineapple on pizza that he would ban it in his country if he could. He even went on to issue a statement on Facebook clarifying his position on pineapples in general, and their specific presence on pizza.

No less a figure than Canada's prime minister Justin Trudeau chimed in on Twitter, saying: "I stand behind this delicious Southwestern Ontario creation." Jóhannesson later softened his stance, admitting in 2018 that he "went a step too far".

Sam Panopoulos had no idea what he started.

Newsletter

Related Articles

London Daily
0:00
0:00
Close
New video
You Are So Beautiful
Tucker Carlson says Boris Johnson wants "a million dollars, in Bitcoin or cash, from Tucker Carlson to talk about Ukraine.
Postmodern Jukebox European Tour Version
Russia is rebuilding capacity to destabilize European countries, new UK report warns
An old French tune (by Georges Brassens) Pomplamoose ft. John Schroeder
EU Commission wants anti-drone defenses at Brussels HQ
Sattahip Motor Show 20
Von der Leyen’s 2nd-term pitch: More military might, less climate talk
SONATE AU CLAIR DE LUNE - Moonlight sonata
Global Law Enforcement Dismantles Lockbit Ransomware Operation
A kiss to build a dream on
Prince William Urges End to Gaza Conflict
Wonderful Tonight - Eric Clapton (Boyce Avenue acoustic cover)
UK court to hear Assange's final appeal against extradition to the US, where he faces charges related to his journalistic work—the publication of a classified video in 2010 that exposed US war crimes against humanity.
Mean Blues
About 50-60% kids either chose to be YouTuber or influencer
La Chansonnette
A viral video of Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce lying on a Canberra footpath is celebrated by his media mates.
Pattaya Addicts
European Countries React to Navalny's Death by Summoning Russian Diplomats
Franz Liszt - Liebestraum - Love Dream
Israel has gone ‘beyond self-defence’ in Gaza, says Labour’s Streeting
Dream a little dream of me
English farmers to be offered ‘largest ever’ grant scheme amid food security concerns
Unchained Melody sung like you've NEVER heard!
Cameron government knew Post Office ditched Horizon IT investigation
Dave Brubeck - Take Five
EU Calls for Immediate Ceasefire in Gaza Conflict
Édith Piaf - Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien (Sofie)
EU Vows To Hold Putin "Accountable" After Meeting Alexei Navalny's Wife
Rondo Alla Turca
EU Launches Probe Into TikTok Over Child Protection Under Digital Content Law
Kiss of fire
The EU Initiates Naval Mission to Defend Red Sea Trade Routes
Tom Jones - I´ll Never Fall In Love Again 1967, 1989, 2001
EU and UK Announce Joint Effort on Migration
Israel Cachao López - Guajira Clásica
Brazil's Lula Likens Gaza Operation to Holocaust, Israel Says "Red Line" Crossed
Edward Maya - Stereo Love (feat. Vika Jigulina) (Extended Mix)
Ministers Confirm Proposal to Prohibit Mobile Phone Usage in English Schools
Strauss - Radetzky March - Karajan
Microsoft-backed OpenAI valued at $80bn after company completes deal
La vie en rose
‘Alexei would want to tell Russia not to give up fighting’
The Temptations - My Girl (Smokey Robinson Tribute) 2006 Kennedy Cent
Rwandan Footballer's Dismissal Sparks Concerns Over UK Asylum Plan
Orlando Cachaito Lopez Redencion
Whisky Challenges China's Baijiu Market During New Year Celebrations
Edith Piaf - NON, JE NE REGRETTE RIEN
Avdiivka - Symbol Of Ukrainian Resistance Now In Control Of Russian Troops
RADETZKY MARCH-2008-Wien, New Year Concert
Putin Critic Alexei Navalny's "Killers" Refusing To Hand Over Body, Say Allies
Only you (And you alone)
"Historic Step": Zelensky Signs Security Pact With Germany
Strangers In The Night
"Historic Step": Zelensky Signs Security Pact With Germany
Charles Aznavour - La Boheme
20 Tech Giants Sign Effort To Fight AI Election Interference Across Globe
Summer time
Joe Biden Accuses Putin of Causing Navalny's Death
Sting and Stevie Wonder - Fragile (from Sting's 60th birthday concert)
Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny has died at the Arctic prison colony
Aux Champs Elysees
Tucker Carlson grocery shopping in Russia. This is so interesting.
Stand By Me - Ben E. King (Boyce Avenue acoustic cover)
Julian Assange's Wife Warns of His Death if Extradited to US
La Mer (Beyond the Sea) – Avalon Jazz Band
‘A lot higher than we expected’: Russian arms production worries Europe’s war planners
She
Greece Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage and Adoption Rights
Nathalie Song by Enzo Petrachi Stjepan Hauser Cello
Hungarian Foreign Minister: Europeans will lose Europe, the Union's policy must change drastically
Shape of My Heart - Sting (Boyce Avenue acoustic cover)
In Britain Homeowners are receiving CPO’s (Compulsory Purchase Orders) so their homes can be redistributed to migrants
Radiohead - Creep
Microsoft says it caught hackers from China, Russia and Iran using its AI tools
Quizás,Quizás,Quizás - Andrea Bocelli - Jennifer Lopez
Influencers Exploit X Platform for Profit Amidst Israel-Gaza Conflict
Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps - Multi-Couples
Former Dutch PM And Wife Die "Together Hand In Hand" Via Duo Euthanasia
Pentatonix Havana
Media Giant Paramount Global, Which Owns CBS News, To Cut 800 Jobs
Paula Cole - Autumn Leaves
US Rejects Putin's Ceasefire Offer in Ukraine
Oscar Benton Bensonhurst Blues
"History is Watching": Biden Encourages US House to Approve Ukrainian War Aid
OH NANANA vs ABUSADAMENTE
Wolf! Wolf!: Joe Biden Joins TikTok Despite Washington's Security Risk Warnings
Nina Simone - ”I Put A Spell On You”. Vezi aici cum cântă Jeremy Ragsd
A Londoner has been arrested for expressing his Christian beliefs.
NIGHTWISH - The Phantom Of The Opera
Chinese Women Favor AI Boyfriends Over Humans
Motorshow 2016 Tanjay Negros Oriental
Kylie Minogue to receive Brits global icon award and will perform at ceremony
Monica Bellucci - Ti Amo
Greece must address role in migrant vessel disaster that killed 600: Amnesty
Michael Jackson - Billie Jean Milena The Voice France 2018
Russian Oligarch's Seized Yacht Costs More Than $7 Million A Year To Maintain: US
Michael Buble (Help Me Make It Through The Night) feat Loren Allred
Memories Canon In D - Maroon 5 (Boyce Avenue piano acoustic cover)
Matteo Simoni - Marina
Maroon 5 - One More Night
Maroon 5 - Memories
Mark Knopfler - Brothers In Arms (Berlin 2007 Live)
Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris - Romeo And Juliet (Real Live Roadrunni
Marina, Marina - The LUCKY DUCKIES intimist live concert at Guimarães
Major Lazer & DJ Snake – Lean On Mauranne The Voice France 2016
Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet - Joslin - Henri Mancini, Nino Rota
LoLa & Hauser - Love Story
Linkin Park Jay-Z - Numb Encore (Live 8 2005)
Hallelujah Mennel Ibtissem, The Voice France Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen - Dance Me to the End of Love
Leonard Cohen & Natasha Rostova - Dance me to the end of love
La casa de papel - Bella Ciao
La Camisa Negra
L'italiano (Toto Cutugno) - The Gypsy Queens
Juanes - La Camisa Negra
Jonathan and Charlotte - Britain's Got Talent 2012 Live Semi Final - U
John Powell - Assassin's Tango
Joe Cocker - You Can Leave Your Hat On (LIVE in Dortmund)
Joe Cocker - Unchain My Heart 2002 Live
Joe Cocker - A Whiter Shade Of Pale
Jay Z & Alicia Keys - Empire State of Mind LIVE
Jason Mraz - Im Yours (live)
Jarrod Radnich - Bohemian Rhapsody - Virtuosic Piano Solo
James Blunt - You're Beautiful
James Blunt - You're Beautiful & Bonfire Heart (Live at The Nobel Peac)
If You Go Away - Helen Merrill & Stan Getz (Tribute to Virna Lisi)
I'LL BE MISSING YOU
I Say a Little Prayer
Hotel California ( Eagles ) 1994 Live
Historia de un amor - Luz Casal. Vezi interpretarea Biancăi Sumanariu
Here Comes The Sun - The Beatles (Boyce Avenue acoustic cover) on Spot
Heart - Stairway to Heaven Led Zeppelin - Kennedy Center Honors
HAVANA by Camila Cabello Zumba Pre Cooldown TML Crew Kramer Pastra
HAUSER and Señorita - I Will Always Love You
HAUSER - Waka Waka
HAUSER - Sway
HAUSER - Lambada
HAUSER - Historia de un Amor
HAUSER - Despacito
Great Pretender
Georgia May Foote & Giovanni Pernice Samba to 'Volare' - Strictly Come
Gary Moore - Still Got The Blues
GIPSY KINGS VOLARE Penelope Cruz
Fugees - Killing Me Softly With His Song
French Latino - Historia de un Amor
For A Few Dollars More The Danish National Symphony Orchestra (Live)
Flashdance • What a Feeling • Irene Cara
Filip Rudan - “Someone You Loved” Audicija 4 The Voice Hrvatska Sez
Eric Clapton - Wonderful Tonight
Enya - Only Time
Enrique Iglesias - Bailando (English Version) ft. Sean Paul
Enrique Iglesias - Bailamos
Elena Yerevan Historia de un amor
Ed Sheeran - Shape of You (Official Music Video)
Ed Sheeran - Perfect Symphony [with Andrea Bocelli]
Ed Sheeran - Perfect (Official Music Video)
Easy On Me - Adele (Boyce Avenue 90’s style piano acoustic cover) on S
ERA - Ameno
ELENA YEREVAN- Cancion Del Mariachi-IN STUDIO-2017 DPR
Dust In The Wind - Kansas (Boyce Avenue acoustic cover)
Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood
Despacito x Shape Of You - Pentatonix
Deep Purple - Child In Time - Live (1970)
David Foster When A Man Loves A WomanIt's A Mans World (SealMichael Bo
Dance me to the end of Love ( Pi-Air Design )
Coolio - Gangsta's Paradise (feat. L.V.) [Official Music Video]
Conquest Of Paradise (Vangelis), played on Böhm Emporio organ
Cielito Lindo
Chico & The Gypsies - Bamboleo
Canción Del Mariachi - Antonio Banderas, Los Lobos • Desperado
Camila Cabello - Havana (Audio) ft. Young Thug
Camila Cabello - Havana ( cover by J.Fla )
California Dreamin' - The Mamas & The Papas José Feliciano (Boyce Ave
Buster Benton - Money Is The Name of The Game
Hallelujah Pentatonix
Bobby McFerrin - Don't Worry Be Happy (Official Music Video)
Bob Dylan - Knockin' On Heaven's Door Emilia The Voice Kids France
Besame Mucho - Cesaria Evora
Ben E. King - Stand by Me Sax Cover Alexandra Ilieva Thomann
Bella Ciao
Bella Ciao - INSTRUMENTAL
Beautiful in White x Canon in D (Piano Cover by Riyandi Kusuma)
Bad Romance - Vintage 1920's Gatsby Style Lady Gaga Cover ft. Ariana Savalas & Sarah Reich(1)
BELLA CIAO 2020 - KARAOKE ITALIANO
BAMBOLEO - Gipsy Kings • Antonio Banderas, Katya Virshilas
BAILANDO (original)
Awesome Ukrainian yodeler - SOFIA SHKIDCHENKO (with English subtitles)
Avicii - The Nights
Atom - The Great Gig in the Sky
Aretha Franklin - (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman (Official Ly
Antonio Banderas - Cancion del Mariachi (Desperado)
André Rieu - Zorba's Dance (Sirtaki)
André Rieu - Can't Help Falling In Love
André Rieu & Mirusia - Ave Maria
Andrew Reyes Elton John - Don't Let The Sun Go Down The Voice 2020 (
Andreas Kümmert Whiter Shade Of Pale The Voice of Germany 2013 Showd
And I Love You So
All About That Bass - Postmodern Jukebox European Tour Version
Alan Walker - Faded (Piano Cover)
Ain't No Sunshine -- Bill Withers (cover by Canen 12 y.o.)
African music
Adriana Vidović - “Creep” Audicija 4 The Voice Hrvatska Sezona 3
Adriana Vidović - “Believer” Nokaut 3 The Voice Hrvatska Sezona 3
A Fistful of Dollars - The Danish National Symphony Orchestra and Tuva
4 Beautiful Soundtracks Relaxing Piano [10min]
2CELLOS - Whole Lotta Love vs. Beethoven 5th Symphony [OFFICIAL VIDEO]
2CELLOS - Smooth Criminal (Live at Suntory Hall, Tokyo)
2CELLOS - Smells Like Teen Spirit [Live at Sydney Opera House]
2CELLOS - Despacito [OFFICIAL VIDEO]
13 Year Old Girl Playing Il Silenzio (The Silence) - André Rieu
094.All About That Bass
00 - SADNESS PART 1
(Ghost) Riders In the Sky (American Outlaws Live at Nassau Coliseum, 1
(Everything I Do) I Do It For You - Bryan Adams (Boyce Avenue ft. Conn
What a wonderful world
Moon river
×