There are many great questions which will plague us for as long as we’re on this planet. Is there life after death? Is it too early to text her back? Finally, the big one: Do you like pineapple on pizza? This question has divided many, and will continue to do so, as people can’t seem to agree on whether the sweet fruit belongs on a pizza. Thanks to the internet, full-blown social media arguments have erupted over this question.
Even world leaders got involved. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, stood firmly on the pro-Hawaiian side while the Icelandic President Guðni Jóhannesson stated that he was “fundamentally opposed” to the idea and even clarified further in a Facebook post.
“I like pineapples, just not on pizza. I do not have the power to make laws which forbid people to put pineapples on their pizza. I am glad that I do not hold such power. Presidents should not have unlimited power. I would not want to hold this position if I could pass laws forbidding that which I don’t like. I would not want to live in such a country. For pizzas, I recommend seafood.”
We only have one man to thank for all this back-and-forth. Sam Panopoulos is widely believed to have invented the Hawaiian pizza. He was a man of strong opinions as well as strong tastes, as seen in his response when asked about the Icelandic President’s comments.
“The guy is crazy. He doesn’t grow a lot of pineapples up there. He has a lot of fish – so he says put fish on it.”
Sadly, Panopoulos recently passed away at the age of 83. The creation he will be remembered for was born 55 years ago when Panopoulos and his brothers ran several restaurants in Ontario. Indeed, the Hawaiian pizza had very little to do with Hawaii; it is actually a Canadian invention brought about by a family of Greek immigrants. Who knew?
Sam Panopoulos emigrated from Greece to Canada in 1954 at the age of 20 and co-managed several restaurants , including one in Chatham, about 180 miles (290km) from Toronto and 50 miles from Detroit. The restaurant served burgers and fries as well as Chinese dishes. In the early 1960s, Panopoulos decided to try something different and start offering pizzas. Ever the innovator, Panopoulos explained to the BBC that pizza toppings at the time were usually limited to mushrooms, bacon and pepperoni. He decided to add a different spin to it by adding tinned pineapples as a topping.
“We just put it on, just for the fun of it, see how it was going to taste. We were young in the business and we were doing a lot of experiments.”
The Panopoulos brothers liked the contrast between the sweetness of the pineapple and the savoury flavour of the ham. After trying it out, they repeated the experiment with a few customers and it was such a hit that they added it to the menu. The name “Hawaiian” was culled from the brand of tinned pineapple used. The rest, as they say, is history.
Sam Panopoulos was still living in Ontario at the time of his death but the Satellite – the restaurant where the Hawaiian was first created – had been sold since 1980. Following his passing, Sam’s family described him as “an unforgettable personality”. His obituary read as follows.
“Sam was respected by many for providing strong and dependable advice, and for his exceedingly generous nature.
“Fiercely loyal and protective, his candid and frank sense of humour, his booming laugh and blunt honesty will be missed by his family, friends, former employees and customers.”
It is unlikely that the debate over Hawaiian pizza will be settled anytime soon. What is certainly clear is that the man who launched a thousand tweets with his decision to put tinned pineapples on a pizza will be remembered for much more and will be sorely missed.
H/T: The Guardian