The Enduring Controversy of Hawaiian Pizza

iStock.com/bhofack2
iStock.com/bhofack2

One's passion for pizza is not to be underestimated. Sauce has been spilled in debates over geographical superiority, deep dish over New York thin crust, and frozen over fresh. (Admittedly, the latter isn’t much of a discussion.)

Yet nothing seems to divides pizza aficionados like Hawaiian pizza—a conventional pie topped with perceived obscenities such as pineapple. For one thing, it’s not even Hawaiian in origin. For another, putting fruit on a pizza has been compared to doodling on the Mona Lisa. In honor of National Pizza Week, we’re taking a quick look at the origins of this controversial addition to the menu.

Hawaiian pizza actually originated in Ontario, Canada in the 1960s, when Satellite Restaurant owner and Greek immigrant Sam Panopoulos returned from Detroit having sampled what was then a novelty for Canadians: pizza. At the time, the dough-and-sauce arrangement was considered an “ethnic” food and not widely available in the country. Panopoulos took what he learned from his stateside visit, bought a small oven, and began preparing pies with toppings like mushroom, bacon, and pepperoni.

In 1962, Panopoulos decided to add another option, offering customers pineapple as a topping. There was no gastronomic science behind it. “We just put it on, just for the fun of it, [to] see how it was going to taste,” Panopoulos told the BBC in February 2017. A taste test revealed that the sweetness of the pineapple and savory flavor of the added ham made for a nice contrast with the salty, doughy pie. The “Hawaiian” name came from the brand of canned pineapple Panopoulos used.

Because pizza was itself a bit of a novelty in Ontario, there was little resistance to the idea—the food had yet to inspire the devoted and widespread following it enjoys today. (In fact, Panopoulos didn’t even have dedicated pizza boxes. He just cut circles out of cardboard he sourced from a local furniture store.) With canned pineapple a fixture of Canadian pantries thanks to spiking interest in the so-called Tiki culture that blossomed following World War II, Canadians were happy to try it.

And they liked it. “Because those days, nobody was mixing sweets and sours and all that,” Panopoulos said. “It was plain, plain food.”

As pizza franchises sprung up throughout the latter half of the 20th century, so did Hawaiian pizza, installing itself as a fringe menu item for people with an adventurous palate. But for every person who’s happy to experience something different, there’s someone else who considers the addition an abomination.

In 2017, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, the president of Iceland, told schoolchildren he would ban pineapple pizza if he had the power. (Jóhannesson later walked back the comment, insisting he held no such influence, but it sounded more like a lament than a retraction.) That same year, a UK survey revealed that while 53 percent of citizens liked pineapple on their pizza, 15 percent would support a ban.

On June 8, 2017, Panopoulos died at the age of 83. Having sold his restaurant back in 1980, he was largely kept out of the debate and relegated himself to eating only frozen pies. As for Hawaii: They don’t appear to like their namesake delicacy any more or less than the rest of the world.

New Jersey's Anthony Bourdain Food Trail Has Opened

Neilson Barnard/Getty Images
Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

Before Anthony Bourdain was a world-famous chef, author, or food and travel documentarian, he was just another kid growing up in New Jersey. Earlier this year, Food & Wine reported that Bourdain's home state would honor the late television personality with a food trail tracing his favorite restaurants. And that trail is now open.

Bourdain was born in New York City in 1956, and spent most of childhood living in Leonia, New Jersey. He often revisited the Garden State in his books and television shows, highlighting the state's classic diners and delis and the seafood shacks of the Jersey shore.

Immediately following Bourdain's tragic death on June 8, 2018, New Jersey assemblyman Paul Moriarty proposed an official food trail featuring some of his favorite eateries. The trail draws from the New Jersey episode from season 5 of the CNN series Parts Unknown. In it, Bourdain traveled to several towns throughout the state, including Camden, Atlantic City, and Asbury Park, and sampled fare like cheesesteaks, salt water taffy, oysters, and deep-fried hot dogs.

The food trail was approved following a unanimous vote in January, and the trail was officially inaugurated last week. Among the stops included on the trail:

  1. Frank's Deli // Asbury Park
  1. Knife and Fork Inn // Atlantic City
  1. Dock's Oyster House // Atlantic City
  1. Tony's Baltimore Grill // Atlantic City
  1. James' Salt Water Taffy // Atlantic City
  1. Lucille's Country Cooking // Barnegat
  1. Tony & Ruth Steaks // Camden
  1. Donkey's Place // Camden
  2. Hiram's Roadstand // Fort Lee

The Reason Why 'Doritos Breath' Stopped Being a Problem

iStock/FotografiaBasica
iStock/FotografiaBasica

In the 1960s, Frito-Lay marketing executive Arch West returned from a family vacation in California singing the praises of toasted tortillas he had sampled at a roadside stop. In 1972, his discovery morphed into Doritos, a plain, crispy tortilla chip that was sprinkled with powdered gold in the form of nacho cheese flavoring.

Doritos enthusiasts were soon identifiable by the bright orange cheese coating that covered their fingers. But there was another giveaway that they had been snacking: a garlic-laden, oppressive odor emanating from their mouths. The socially stigmatizing condition became known as "Doritos breath." And while the snack still packs a potent post-mastication smell, it’s not nearly as severe as it was in the 1970s and 1980s. So what happened?

Like most consumer product companies, Frito-Lay regularly solicits the opinions of focus groups on how to improve their products. The company spent more than a decade compiling requests, which eventually boiled down to two recurring issues: Doritos fans wanted a cheesier taste, and they also wanted their breath to stop wilting flowers.

The latter complaint was not considered a pressing issue. Despite their pungent nature, Doritos were a $1.3 billion brand in the early 1990s, so clearly people were willing to risk interpersonal relationships after inhaling a bag. But in the course of formulating a cheesier taste—which the company eventually dubbed Nacho Cheesier Doritos—they found that it altered the impact of the garlic powder used in making the chip. Infused with the savory taste known as umami, the garlic powder was what gave Doritos their lingering stink. Tinkering with the garlic flavoring had the unintended—but very happy—consequence of significantly reducing the smell.

“It was not an objective at all,” Stephen Liguori, then-vice president of marketing at Frito-Lay, told the Associated Press in April 1992. “It turned out to be a pleasant side effect of the new and improved seasoning.”

Frito-Lay offered snack-sized bags of the new flavor and enlisted former heavyweight boxing champion George Foreman to promote it. Ever since, complaints of the scent of Doritos wafting from the maws of co-workers have been significantly reduced, and the Nacho Cheesier variation has remained the Doritos flavor of choice among consumers.

When Arch West died in 2011 at the age of 97, his family decided to sprinkle Doritos in his grave. They were plain. Not because of the smell, but because his daughter, Jana Hacker, believed that mourners wouldn’t want nacho cheese powder on their fingers.

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