Canadians my age and younger (I was born in 1973) likely never realized our parents didn’t have mainstream pizza joints on city streets until relatively recently. I thought they were always there in major Canadian cities but it turns out they weren’t. This worldliness I thought Canadians had (as far as pizza goes) is fairly new. And of all places to learn this, it happened at Lombok, Indonesia.
While enjoying dinner with my parents at a lovely resort on this up and coming island paradise, we got talking about drinking and driving and how attitudes surrounding it have changed. My Dad recalled when he was young, driving from Ontario, Canada, across the border to the nearest town in New York State, USA to drink. At that time the drinking age was opposite to that of today: Canada was 21, America – 18. He and his friends (they were underage in Canada) would make the drive over, hit the bars, then turn around and head home.
Dangers and changed attitudes of drinking and driving aside, one point really struck me during our conversation: my Dad mentioned how he can remember the then exotic smell of Parmesan cheese from pizza at the pub they used to go. He’d never seen pizza, let alone taste it, prior to that first trip across the border to the good ol’ US-of-A for drinks. I was flabbergasted. Really? Never had pizza before heading across the border on a teenage bender – hard to fathom!
Turns out not only was the pizza exotic at the time, but they were also drinking adventurously – Cuba Libras (rum, cola, lime juice) were the beverage of choice and he says they were quite different from anything he could get his hands on across the border in the Great White North. How could this be? Here’s a guy who now eats unfamiliar food across SE Asia and is a worldly guy. And he didn’t have pizza until his late teens – wild! How times have changed.
My Dad says he’d seen pizza on television as a kid, referred to as ‘pizza pies’, but they simply weren’t available or a mainstream thing where he lived. Since that time not only have television and movies introduced the west to a much broader variety of locales and cuisines, but affordable air travel has greatly changed the western palate. The middleclass are now being exposed to more cuisines than ever before, and they want to experience those tastes once back home.
Add to that a significant flow of immigrants into western countries decades ago, who likely had a limited grasp of English and didn’t speak with my Dad very much, now have children who speak the local language, share native values, and have likely invited me over for dinner to experience their parents’ cuisine, and the idea of exotic pizza is a bit easier to understand.
Society has never changed at the rapid pace we see today. While technology is the main driver of this, it’s interesting to see that even cuisine, now as mainstream as pizza, was exotic not that long ago for a Canadian teenager. We are truly becoming a global village and no doubt our children will not blink an eye when eating a different cuisine every day of the week. The opposite is likely true; they’ll be alarmed and confused if given the same meat and potatoes (if Western), or noodles and rice (if Asian), or Dahl (if Indian) every night of the week. Their plate is likely to be a very global one.