Sunday, 18 October 2015

Give pizza chance...

A few days ago, I had a sudden realisation: Finland’s national dish is not reindeer and mash, or pickled herring.

No, it’s actually pizza, aka “pitsa”.

The trigger for that sudden realisation was the request this week by the Finnish police for the general public to help fight tax evasion by reporting establishments that sell pitsas for less than €6 (£4.50/ $7). Their argument is that, apart from temporary sales, no legitimate establishment can economically provide pitsas so cheaply.

This obviously caused much hilarity and incredulity on Finnish social media (pitsa as a weapon against tax-evaders? Seriously?).

For me though, it was very interesting that pitsas should have been chosen as benchmark food in such an ambitious fight.

You see, pitsas are not native to Finland (no, really, I do my research). In fact, the first pitsa establishment in Helsinki, Rodolfo, only opened in 1970. [Bizarrely though, it was not the brain-child of some Italian immigrant who had left warm and sunny Capri for delights of Helsinki, but of one Rolf Sjöberg.]

Since then though, Finns have been taking their pitsas very seriously indeed (in the same way they have taken that other naturalised import, tango, very seriously also). So much so that the biggest pitsa chain in Finland, Kotipizza (home-pizza) has the grand motto: “pizza, love and understanding”, i.e. pitsa as a pun and a catalyst for world peace, no less. You don't hear such ambitious words from Finnish sausage manufacturers, huh?

In March 2008, Kotipizza famously (at least in Finland) won the America’s Plate International pizza contest with a pitsa made with rye dough and with smoked reindeer, tomato, cheese, chanterelle and red onions toppings, beating international competition. They called the victorious pitsa “pizza Berlusconi”, in revenge for some disparaging comments the then Italian prime-minister Silvio Berlusconi had made about Finnish food in 2005 – a clear demonstration of pitsa as one-finger salute. [To be fair, the Kotipizza cook was called Valtari, which almost sounds Italian]

Put all this evidence together (pitsa as a weapon against the black market economy, pitsa as an instrument for world peace and pitsa as an international insult), and it becomes obvious that pitsa must now seriously be considered the de facto national dish in Finland.

Anyone disagrees?

1 comment:

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