Iceland’s president has admitted he went “too far” when back in 2017 he expressed his profound dislike for pineapple pizza and his will to ban it in his country.
Gudni Johannesson's comments at the time had sparked an international debate about the popular Hawaiian pizza, which was reportedly invented by a Canadian restaurateur in the 1960s. Canadians had rebuked the Icelandic President for his disparaging remarks about the topping.
Now, a year and a half after the incident, Johannesson has apologized for his closed-mindedness on pizza toppings, according to CBC, saying the power of the presidential office may have gone to his head. “That's where the influence of this office sort of, yeah, got the better of me,” he told host Carol Off during an interview marking the 50th anniversary of Canada's As It Happens radio show. “I went a step too far,” he admitted.
The controversy began in February 2017, when Johannesson took part in a Q&A session with Canadian students. In response to one question from a Canadian student about pizza, the president said he would like to ban the Hawaiian topping—the invention of which is claimed by southern Ontario restaurateur Sam Panopoulos who died in 2017. Panopoulos then told CBC, “He should know better. I'm sure he is a lot younger than I am and I was doing pizza when I was a young guy, you know what I mean?”
Even Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister could not stay away from the matter. He had weighed in at the time, tweeting his support for the “delicious Southwestern Ontario creation” and saying he was a member of “#TeamPineapple”.
We just received this statement from Iceland's President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson regarding his thoughts on pineapple on pizza. pic.twitter.com/uiFtpNhHGL— As It Happens (@cbcasithappens) February 21, 2017
Johannesson's own controversial topping suggestion, recommending seafood instead, drew accusations from Panopoulos that he was trying to promote Iceland’s fishing industry.
Speaking with Off this week, Johannesson maintained his opposition to the marriage of pineapple and pizza. However, he noted that “the individual freedom of having the topping of your choice overrides that.” More specifically, his issue is that with pineapple as a topping, the pizza gets "all sort of mushy."
Off accused the president of a “flip-flop”, but Johannesson defended himself, “I think politicians in general should be allowed to not flip-flop, but revise, to change their mind. You know, what's wrong with changing your mind?”
He insisted on his seafood suggestion, telling Off, “Iceland are a nation of fisherfolk and, you know, if everyone put seafood on their pizzas, that would be a very nice thing to do.” Johannesson denied being “in the pocket of big fish.” He explained, “I wouldn't go that far. But in all honesty, seafood on pizza is good. You should try it.”
How about a seafood and pineapple pizza then?