Photo
Gudni Thorlacius Johannesson, right, visits a restaurant school in Copenhagen with Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark in January.

Credit
Martin Sylvest/European Pressphoto Agency

Talk about sensitive subjects.

It turns out that people take their pizza very personally. So when the president of Iceland casually joked last week that pizza topped with pineapple should be outlawed, he set off a debate of international (and viral) proportions.

The incendiary remarks by this particular world leader, Gudni Thorlacius Johannesson, were made during a visit to a high school in northern Iceland, according to news reports.

In answering questions from students about pizza and football (his favorite Premier League team is Manchester United), Mr. Johannesson told them that, should he be able to pass laws, he would like to ban pineapple as a pizza topping, igniting a media firestorm.

The story quickly ranked among the top trending stories on Reddit and was picked up by news sites including the Guardian, CNN, USA Today and even Foreign Policy. Fans of the topping were outraged. Pizza purists thought they had found a champion.

Photo
A pineapple and ham pizza.

Credit
Vegan Girl, via YouTube

“A true hero,” wrote metalmaniac9999 on Reddit. “Pineapple on pizza is a crime against gastronomy.”

To which, titaniumtoes responded, “See you at The Hague, pal.”

“The Hague is for common war criminals,” countered Heiminator. “People who put pineapple on pizza should face the firing squad immediately. No trial, no blindfold.”

Steve Green, who publishes the pizza industry magazine PMQ, told the Huffington Post: “Being against pineapple pizza is like being against Santa Claus. There’s really nothing that won’t work on a pizza.”

By Tuesday, the president had issued a statement on Facebook, in both English and Icelandic:

“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.”

The seafood suggestion did not help matters.

“Pineapple-pizza-gate,” cried Iceland Magazine. “President backtracks ‘I can’t dictate pizza toppings!’ Then encourages people to put fish on their pizza.”

While shellfish may not have been such a controversial selection — see Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana’s legendary white clam pie in New Haven — the president used the word “fiskmeti” in the Icelandic-language version of his post, which translates as fish-products, rather than seafood.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, pineapple-topped pizza did not originate in Hawaii, but in Canada in 1962, when restaurateur Sam Panopoulos decided to mix ham with canned pineapple on his pie to see how it would turn out, according to according to Atlas Obscura.

“People said ‘You are crazy to do this,’ ” Mr. Panopoulos told the website in a 2015 profile.

The topping has since become a longstanding source of contention, with its own Know Your Meme subject page and a 2014 worst topping ranking by the website Thrillist.

Despite stepping into this controversy, Mr. Johannesson’s approval ratings have remained high.

A former history professor at the University of Iceland with a laid-back style, he has turned down a 20 percent pay hike, donated 10 percent of his pretax salary to charity, and holds the distinction of being the first president to march in a gay pride parade.

Pizza doughnuts, anyone? Recipe here.

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