NZ prime minister shocks nation – ok, the world – by cooking family dinner


Bill English and the pizza that got a nation all woodfired-up
Bill English and the pizza that got a nation all woodfired-up
Friday Afternoon Fun: Kiwi prime minister opens a can of worms with his tinned spaghetti pizza

Donald Trump has to worry about the North Koreans, the Russians, and that wall. Theresa May has to fret about Brexit and accidentally misplacing Scotland. Or Gibraltar.

But if there’s one leader who has more than enough on his plate this week, it’s Bill English.

The usually unflappable – some might even suggest boring – farmer from the Deep South of Aotearoa managed to open a can of worms.

On Tuesday night English cooked dinner for his family. He and his GP wife, Mary, have six children.

It was a 1980s rural Kiwi classic: tinned spaghetti and canned pineapple pizza.

Later, he posted photos of his efforts on Facebook.

Blurry and un-retouched, the photographs caused a culinary uproar.

Fired-up – should that be woodfired-up? – Kiwis took to social media to declare they couldn’t vote for a prime minister who wantonly bastardised Italian cuisine.

“Can’t believe you posted this. Not being a pizza snob or anything but assume that you have sampled real pizza at least once in your life?” wrote one.

“Why on earth would you promote such garbage? Would you serve this stuff to your international guests?? or is this just for the masses?”

Some wondered if the PM’s unusually light-hearted post was to divert attention from more serious issues in New Zealand.

But chef’s efforts had their supporters. Some said it was a nostalgic reminder of a Southland childhood.

And the former finance minister’s budget-friendly dinner was praised as “an affordable option for beneficiaries”.

However, an award-winning chef from one of Auckland’s best Italian restaurants was quite crusty about the prime minister’s slice of the pie.

“You can’t even call it pizza,” Sergio Maglione sniffed. “It’s more like round toast with stuff on top.”

As a member of the AVPN (True Naples Pizza Association) and one of the world’s top 20 pizza makers in 2015, Maglione believes in adhering to traditional pizza standards.

“For me, it’s all about using the best and freshest ingredients available – no processed food,” he said.

Maglione professed he had an open mind about pineapple on pizza, but wished English had used fresh pineapple instead of tinned pineapple chunks.

“Why not buy the best pineapple you can find, buy fresh spaghetti, and teach your kids about the ingredients?”

The inventor of Auckland’s famous metre-long pizza would happily invite English to his restaurant to learn authentic pizza techniques. “There is a lot to understand,” Maglione said.

The Guardian enlisted Domino’s Pizza for a taste test. The “PM’s special” took one minute to pull together and eight minutes to cook.

Its reporter declared it was sloppy and lacked texture, immediately falling to pieces in her hands (because they forgot to use Bill’s trick of draining the spaghetti sauce first).

“But it was good. Unpretentious, with immediate, uncomplicated flavours and a surprising ‘yum’ factor.”

Pizza wars spread across the globe. On his late-night TV show, US comedian Jimmy Kimmel called on New Zealanders to dump English:

“We can be pretty hard on Donald Trump but they have a guy in New Zealand … who I think is even worse and I’m going to show you why.

“He put canned spaghetti and pineapples on a pizza. That is so offensive, that is an act of war. I think he just declared war on Italy. And maybe Hawaii too. I don’t know.

“Impeach that man immediately, New Zealand. This is why I’ve always preferred Old Zealand.”

Kimmel might be on to something. With an election coming up in a few months, English surely must be wishing he hadn’t raised such an emotive issue that will divide New Zealanders across (pizza) party lines.

It was only last week that Iceland’s president Guðni Th. Jóhannesson split his nation in two when he answered a schoolkid’s question on the same topic.

Jóhannesson said he was “fundamentally opposed” to pineapple on pizza, and doubled down by stating he would ban tropical fruit from pizza if he could.

Just as well he doesn’t govern Sweden. You can get a banana curry pizza there.



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