This is a silly post, about a silly bit of news, but is a reminder that we really should think about what we eat.
According to Foreign Policy, in a post titled Profiles in Courage, The President of Iceland recently told high school students “he was fundamentally opposed to the concept of pineapple as a pizza topping and if he had the power to do so, he would ban the practice entirely”. He later backtracked, writing on Facebook:
“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.”
He has a point- Iceland is a huge producer of seafood, and he is supporting and promoting a local food rather than one imported from halfway around the world. And it turns out that pineapples are really a problematic fruit environmentally; According to the Guardian, “These days, sweet pineapple come with a sour aftertaste, with production marred by allegations of environmental damage, union-busting, chemical poisoning and poverty wages.”
Most people think that pineapples come from Hawaii, but it is responsible for only .13 percent of production, 400 million pineapples out of the 300 billion grown each year. In fact, most of them come from Costa Rica. According to the Guardian and Bananalink, a site promoting a fair and sustainable pineapple and banana trade,
Approximately 70% of workers in the Costa Rican pineapple industry are Nicaraguan migrants…. These migrant workers are the secret to Costa Rica’s pineapple success, providing a cheaper and more flexible workforce. Many have no official papers or visas leaving them particularly vulnerable to the power of their employers, who can sack and deport them at any sign of trouble, i.e., if they complain about working conditions or join a trade union.
The growers also use huge amounts of agrochemicals and pesticides.
The intense use of agrochemicals has huge effects in Costa Rica, where the effects of pesticide use are exacerbated by the fact that Costa Rica is a rainforest. This means that intense rain fall carries the pesticides away from the agriculture site into water supplies. Water sources for local communities are then polluted. Pesticides are contaminating aquifers, ground water, and are causing erosion, sedimentation, and deforestation.
The expanding pineapple plantations are also causing massive deforestation- "The development of pineapple plantations often only leaves tiny islands of forest, cutting off biological corridors and limiting biodiversity."
Although in some ways, for me writing from Toronto, Hawaiian pizza is local; it was evidently invented in Chatham, Ontario, not far from the border with Detroit. Sam Panopoulos, now 83, tells Helen Mann of the CBC:
That was back in the late '50s, the '60s. Pizza wasn't in Canada — nowhere. Pizza was coming in through Detroit, through Windsor, and I was in Chatham then, that was the third stop. We had a restaurant there. We went down to Windsor a couple of times, and these places, and I said, "Let's try a pizza."
Then we tried to make some pizza. Along the way, we threw some pineapples on it and nobody liked it at first. But after that, they went crazy about it. Because those days nobody was mixing sweets and sours and all that. It was plain, plain food. Anyway, after that it stays.
This is all easy for me to say, because I have never tasted pineapple on a pizza, and we do not usually have pineapples in our house because of former food writer Kelly’s predilection for local food, and there are no local pineapples in Toronto.
Kelly instead would make something like a Broccoli Rabe, Potato and Rosemary Pizza. Now that is seasonal and local.