The great debate
KRISTA MONTELPARE SPECIAL TO SALTWIRE NETWORK
Wood-fired, ovenbaked, thin crust, deep dish, extra cheese, white sauce, vegetarian, meat-lovers, anchovies — of the infinite combinations, regional favourites, classic pair-ups and standard preferences, none is as controversial or widely debated around the Friday night dinner table as this: Does pineapple belong on pizza? It’s a prickly point of conversation for pizza purists, who would argue against any topping outside of what is found on a normal pizzeria menu. Anita Kirkbride of Bedford, however, is a staunch supporter of pineapple on pizza. “It’s the only kind of pizza I will order. It’s not pizza without pineapple, as far as I’m concerned,” she says. Although, like many, the Kirkbride household is divided on the standard order. While one of her teens will generously pick off the fruit for others to enjoy, the ultimate topping decisions go to she who makes the call and places the order. “I’ll eat something else if it’s there, but if I’m ordering, it’s Hawaiian,” Kirkbride says. THE OTHER SIDE OF THE PIE Sarah White of Lantz enjoys pineapple as a fruit, but does not invite it into her family pizza-making. “The first time I had pineapple on pizza was at a birthday party when I was a kid,” she recalls. It was a jarring experience. “The birthday party was serving your standard Hawaiian pizza, which I initially liked because of the ham, but the pineapple definitely threw me off. The sweetness, how kind of wet it is, it’s a lot of weird sensory experiences at once.” The White family defaults to pepperoni, bacon and green peppers, plus garlic fingers for their daughters. They welcome creativity when they’re preparing their own pizza, but that still would not include pineapple. ‘SIMPLY THE BEST’ More than merely sustenance, Katie Hayes, chef and owner of the Bonavista Social Club in Upper Amherst Cove, N.L., is not a fan of pineapple on pizza, but she says she does see a lot of people order it. If you’re going to add it, she suggests roasting it first in a wood-fired oven before adding it to your pizza to give it a great flavour and reduce the moisture from the fruit. pizza parties are time-honoured traditions for Maggie Bell of Mermaid, P.E.I. Homemade pizza night is a special, seasonal occasion as a cosy family activity following a hockey game or a skate on the pond. “We all make individual pizzas and pick our own toppings before sitting down for either a cosy movie or some light conversation at the table,” says Bell. While her go-to order includes pineapple, green onion, and mushrooms, her husband (who prefers donair and other meaty toppings) is known to steal a slice from her plate. Bell is fond of the sweet juiciness that is produced by the pineapple as it bakes on the pizza. She insists “pineapple is simply the best pizza topping.” FRUIT OR FOE Rhonda Stone of Fredericton, N.B., is not too sweet on the salty-sweet flavour combination of this tropical pizza topping. She categorically declares that fruit does not belong on pizza. “I detest pineapple on pizza. I know some people enjoy it, but I cannot understand that enjoyment. It doesn’t complement anything at all on a pizza,” says Stone, who considers pizza to be a savoury dish where the sweetness of fruit does not belong. Likewise, Kirkbride assumes it’s the fruit association in particular that evokes such a hard stance for the pineapple opposition. Still, it isn’t cause for loathing. “I don’t understand why people hate it. It adds such a nice sweet punch to the pizza, and it’s so good leftover and cold, too,” says Kirkbride. Bell agrees that, conceptually, a fruit-centric pizza can be a tricky hurdle to jump. “Fruit on pizza just sounds so strange — I would never think of putting grapes on pizza, or a slice of kiwi ... so why pineapple? I get why it seems so strange.” Joni and Maisie White, from Lantz, add toppings to their pizza. Their family prefers pepperoni, bacon and green peppers, and skips the pineapple. TASTE VERSUS TEXTURE For better or for worse, the controversy seems to be based on the textural experience as much as the flavours of the combined pizza toppings. “Pizza, in general, is a sensory experience,” says White. “That balance of salty, sweet and spicy as well as the gooey cheese and crunchy or chewy crust is what makes it such a desirable meal. In my opinion, pineapple just upsets the balance.” Stone agrees, adding, “it is disgusting to bite into a slice of delicious pizza and be met with hot pineapple juice squirting out. It totally ruins the mouth feel and is so offputting to me.” On the flip side, that’s exactly why Bell is a fan of the syrupy sweetness that pineapple contributes to the top of a pizza. “Once that pineapple caramelizes,” she explains, “the juiciness just adds to the entire pizza experience.” ADVICE FROM A PRO The Bonavista Social Club in Upper Amherst Cove, N.L., is an open-concept kitchen centred around a wood-fired bread oven. Chef and owner Katie Hayes is not personally a fan of pineapple on pizza but acknowledges it is an often-requested topping at her restaurant. “I think it makes the crust soggy and the whole pizza then tastes like pineapple,” she says. That said, if you must include the fruit, Hayes recommends taking some prepizza precautions to limit the juiciness that seems to most affect the overall texture. “If I serve pineapple on pizza, I like to roast it in the wood-fired oven before using it as a topping. I find it brings out the natural sugars and dries the pineapple a little, allowing the thin crust to stay crispy while cooking,” says Hayes. There’s a pizza for every palate and, ultimately, the place for pineapple seems destined to remain a question forever unresolved. Stone will acquiesce that Hawaiian pizza might have a place on the menu but do not try to add pineapple to any other recipe. “Just don’t try to put that fruit on my pepperoni pizza,” she adds.