Food sins and the pineapple on pizza controversy

Jun 19, 2023
According to the survey, Italians believe that not sharing your food is also a crime, coming in fifth on the list of food sins. Source: Getty

It appears that the Italians find our taste in pizza offensive.

In fact, they have labelled our love of pineapple on pizza as a “food crime”.

A survey of 1400 Italian residents, released when I was in Venice last week, found that putting pineapple on pizza – an adopted Australian delicacy – is the second worst food crime possible, just behind putting tomato sauce (ketchup) on spaghetti.

The Hawaiian Pizza as we know and love it was created in Canada in 1962 by a Greek immigrant named Sam Panopoulos. Since then, it has become the go-to pizza order for many Australians.

When it comes to what makes a good pizza though, the Italians have history on their side. 

Pizza originated in Naples sometime between the 18th and 19th centuries. When asked in this YouGov survey 64.89 per cent of locals said they never wanted to see pineapple on pizza.

Almost 10 per cent said they would end a date immediately if their guest asked for pineapple on a pizza. Now that’s harsh.

Italians are passionate about food. They talk an awful lot about it. They demand it is good. They protect its authenticity, and they pass down recipes and techniques through the generations.

Days after my Italian friend Sandro came home from his honeymoon with Penny, a true-blue Aussie girl, Sandro’s mother came to visit with her cooking utensils.

She turned Penny’s kitchen upside down as she revealed her culinary secrets. Her purpose was to make sure that Penny knew how to cook the Italian way – the way her beautiful boy Sandro deserved. Her intentions were pure. It was her gift to Penny, to show her the true, and proper way, to make a bolognese sauce, and to make pasta from scratch.

Italian food is made to be shared, so I’m lucky that when I visit Sandro and Penny, I get to share the lessons learned long ago from his mum.

According to the survey, Italians believe that not sharing your food is also a crime, coming in fifth on the list of food sins. Other sins included putting cream in carbonara; using a knife and fork to eat pizza; combing the wrong sauce and pasta; and adding cheese to a meal that contains seafood.

In the pursuit of honesty, I do break a few of these rules. I have no idea about matching pasta with sauces. I tend to go with penne for everything because most sauces attach to it.

I also use a knife and fork with pizza, but I think that is more to do with the way we make pizzas in Australia. Compared to Italians, we put so many toppings on a pizza that at times it is almost impossible to pick up. 

I’ve also put cream in carbonara on a regular basis. I’m not the only one in our house though who breaks the rules when it comes to dairy products.

My wife Ali doesn’t care what the “Use By” dates say, instead, she uses her olfactory system to determine if the milk is drinkable, the yoghurt still has its culture, and the mature cheese hasn’t yet turned up its toes.

Any doubts, out they go. But if they pass the smell test, and it’s a very big inhale, then the milk goes straight into the coffee; the yoghurt goes on the fruit; and the cheese gets spread all over the pizza.

People my age remember lining up for a free bottle of milk every morning at school. Sometimes it was warm from sitting in the sun too long, but back then we didn’t know what a “Use By” date was, let alone have the courage to say no to an angry Nun who was handing out free milk. So, we drank it … and survived.

British supermarket chain Marks & Spencer has just announced that it is removing the “Use By” date from its milk products and that it wants its customers to adopt the sniff test when it comes to determining if it is drinkable, or not.

A spokesperson for M&S said that the “combination of improved shelf life and overall quality of milk” had allowed it to “make the change which means customers can use their judgment before throwing away milk that may be too good to waste”.

It makes sense. And it’s something we should all start doing.

Every day, Australians are throwing away copious amounts of edible food because it has past the “Use By” date.

Not because it is off, but because a stamp says to. The person who puts the “Use By” stamp on food products has no idea how you store them.

Milk is just one of the perfectly good products that we throw out.

Our government estimates that food waste costs the economy $36.6 billion each year.

About 7.3 million tonnes of food is wasted every year. In simple terms, it means that for every five bags of groceries that we buy, we end up throwing one out.

On average, each bag of groceries I buy from Coles costs me about $65.

And in these tough economic times, it just doesn’t make sense to be throwing away money. Every cent is important. The secret to saving money is actually to shop more but buy less. Don’t fill your fridge with food you might need, only buy things that you know you will eat over the next couple of days. That way, you will end up throwing out less, and maybe you can afford the odd hand and pineapple pizza.

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