Current affairs

PPFF #171: Hawaiian pizza

Good morning,

On the 10th of June, as many of you might have already been aware, Sam Panopoulos, a Canadian restaurateur passed away. It was a sad day, not just for his family and friends but also for all those who appreciate the ingenious pineapple-and-ham combination on oven-baked, tomato sauce covered circular flatbread, served all over the world. Yes, that controversial invention of his which polarised the first world, already plagued by many other devastating questions such as ‘ios or Android?’, and set it ablaze with what we commonly refer to as Hawaiian ‘pizza’.

There are plenty of half-wit semi-entertaining articles on this issue out there (obviously including this very piece but also this, this , this and this – to get you started). But as trivial and frivolous as this pseudo-controversy might seem, this debate is probably not confined to pineapple as a pizza topping (I’m sure there is a sociological angle one can approach this from too, but I’m not qualified to go there). There is a slightly more substantial culinary issue here if, for analytical purposes, we deconstruct the pineapple and ham to the fundamentals; mixing savoury and sweet tastes.

The five basic tastes (sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and savoury – ignore ‘umami’ – it’s contestable) we’re hardwired with, apparently provide our taste-buds with crucial information about the food we’re about to swallow e.g. sweetness signals high density of energy/calories, and saltiness, minerals and nutrients, while bitterness/sourness signals potential toxicity.

Whilst I understand that culinary masochists would condition themselves to like all things bitter and sour, most of our tongues favour salty and sweet over bitter and sour especially if each taste is to be experienced on its own. So, when sweet is combined with salty, that’s a double-whammy of what our body is programmed to prefer; at this point smug Hawaiian pizza lovers are probably thinking ‘exactly!’.

Well, not so fast.

The thing is we all know salt is pretty special, in that not only does it taste salty but it is a flavour enhancer in low doses (with ‘low doses’ being the key phrase in this sentence). In fact in high doses (relatively speaking) salt is a ‘bitterness/sourness taste-bud activator’.

Now to finally bring you to the Hawaiian pizza abhorrence, I surmise that (amongst other reasons), maybe it’s not so much the sweet-and-savoury combination per se that offends people’s taste-buds as the poor imbalance between the two tastes and/or the (wrong) amount of salt in the ham, relative to that of pineapple in the first place. Yes. That’s right. It’s the ham!

Have a sweet and savoury Friday.

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PPFF #155: cheers!

Good morning,

Perhaps it was the weather outside, falling/fallen leaves or the sheer lack of sunlight I get to see these days being a 9-to-5’er in a large office reminiscent of nuclear bomb-shelters probably built during the cold war era (not factually checked) – or perhaps it’s just another case of seasonal affective disorder. Whatever the reason, it got me thinking about death. Not mine in particular or that of the inconsiderate neighbour in the building who last night decided 11:30pm might be just the right time to vacuum their floor. (Although for a second… no). I mean just the idea of death in general.

Believe or not it was quite a challenge to google my way to any ‘cheerful’ piece of writing about death. I think ‘Feeling suicidal? – samaritans.org‎’ was the first entry that came up when I typed in ‘death’ in google. Or was it suicide? (stay with me – it does get better, though marginally). Then I came across this phrase; ‘memento mori’, meaning, ‘remember you will/must die’. The same phrase is used to describe a genre of paintings popular in the 16th/17th European fine art, whose basic form took a portrait with a skull and other objects symbolising death, fragility and finiteness of fleeting life.

I’d like to put the esoteric fine art genre aside, and go back to the original phrase and its origin, because it makes a pretty fascinating story; apparently in ancient Rome when a victorious general entered Rome in all glory and pomp (probably after yet another military conquest) while being cheered by jubilant crowds, they would arrange a slave or servant to whisper in the general’s ear:

“Respice post te.

Hominem te esse memento.

Memento mori”

Or

“Look past you(r time) .

Remember you are (but) a man.

Remember that you (will/must) die.”

For a second I thought it was a little harsh raining on someone’s victory parade but then maybe they thought some sobering is good for the soul I’d guess. ‘But how is this cheerful?’ you might ask. Well this Roman general thing led me to the popular medieval Persian phrase ‘this too shall pass’. This winter or SAD too shall pass.

Have fun this Friday but memento mori as this too shall pass (come Monday)

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PPFF #128

Good morning,

It’s already been a week since Brexit (referendum) happened. Wherever you are in the world, I’m pretty sure you’re all aware now of the fresh perspectives it provided, the wonders it did  and the opportunities it created for both Britain and Europe. What a fascinating roller-coaster ride that was. I won’t go on though – there is such a thing as ‘too much of a good thing’. All these and more have already been said with much more breadth and depth, I believe. Besides it’s all anyone has been talking about every day since last Friday. Well, that and football.

Since then I heard that there’s been a surge of google searches for emigration from UK to Canada, the land of the royal subjects and the home of the meek. I thought it was a bit of an over-reaction to last Friday’s event – so I started investigating what the hype was all about, surrounding the promised land. In the process, (apologies to folks who were expecting some sort of fact this morning) I learnt the following:

  • Prospective economic immigrants to Canada must provide evidence of their proficiency in the English language in the form of one of the tests as designated by the Canadian government even if one’s first language is English (what? why?)
  • Winnie the Pooh is Canadian (apparently there’s a meme)

Of course, I have no intention of moving to Canada (yet); so it was really the second ‘fact’ that caught my attention. To elaborate a little, A. A. Milne, the creator of the Winnie-the-Pooh character, named him after Winnie, a ‘Canadian’ black bear (actually from the American black bear species) caged in the London zoo at the time, first named as such because it/he was captured/sold by a Canadian man from Winnipeg, Manitoba.

To those of you who are thinking now, ‘What a rubbish ‘fact’. I knew this already. Thoroughly uninteresting, Keat! (not my real name). Come on!’, I apologise first. But in my defence, this is because I tried to avoid talking about the only thing I heard/read about this week. Sorry!

Have a Friday.