Putting pineapple on pizza, like the grilled fruit on this wood-fired pie from Bidwell at Union Market, has come a long way since 1978. (Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post)

Periodically in this great land of ours, a controversy flares up that is so bitter and divisive it threatens to sunder our very republic. Remember the Peas-in-the-Guacamole Wars from several years ago? They made the Avocado Toast Uprising seem like a walk in the park.

And now we find ourselves enmeshed in the sticky issue of Hawaiian pizza. No less a figure than the president of Iceland said he would outlaw pineapple-topped pizza if he could.

Last month, Washington Post food writer Tim Carman entered the debate, assembling a team of taste-testers to sample pineapple and ham pizza. (Their findings? Even Hawaiian pizza haters ended up enjoying the pies, probably because We, the Pizza had made them with thinly sliced, roasted pineapple.)

The Dole-ful kerfuffle sent Chuck Bernstein’s mind wandering back to 1978, when he was living in Georgetown and running a store that sold kites. One day, the phone rang. He answered. Washington Post restaurant critic Phyllis C. Richman was on the other end. “I heard a funny story about you,” she said.

The item Phyllis subsequently wrote ran in her “Turning Tables” column on March 28, 1978, read:

“Wonder How He Likes His Pina Coladas — Anyone who runs a kite store is expected to have a little whimsy, but who could have expected Chuck Bernstein of the Kite Site to crave pineapple pizza? He takes a can of the fruit (crushed in heavy syrup, with two cans for a large pizza) every time he goes to Geppetto’s, and asks them to add it to his prosciutto or green pepper pizza. Around those parts he is now known as the Pineapple Man.”

Phyllis was admirably neutral in her report. The heart wants what the heart wants. So does the stomach.

Chuck (My Lovely Wife’s cousin) lives in Arlington, Va., now. Of the pineapplization of his pizzas, he said, “I picked up the habit in Ann Arbor, at the venerable Pizza Bob’s, which I ate at regularly, for many years, and which eventually named a sandwich after me, the Chuck’s Delight.”

That, he explained, was basically a tuna melt with provolone and shredded lettuce. “I was the one who thought of adding the melted cheese to the cold tuna sub, sometime in the early ’70s. Radical, huh?”

Chuck said he still eats pineapple pizza, but rarely, “since many places don’t carry it and I’m too lazy to bring it in.”

Besides, “many pizzaiolos would probably banish me forever from their premises, for the sheer sacrilege, if not for the effrontery, of bringing in outside ingredients.”

That 41-year-old “Turning Tables” column provides a glimpse of the vanished 1970s D.C. dining scene. Geppetto’s is gone. So are most of the restaurants in the other items: Kelley’s Beef on Capitol Hill, La Nicoise (it of the roller-skating waiters), Cafe La Ruche, El Caribe . . .

Chew your food slowly.

Beltway bandit

I didn’t attend Sunday’s town hall meeting in Silver Spring, Md., on Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s proposal to allow a public-private partnership to add toll lanes to I-270 and the Capital Beltway. Neither did Hogan (R), though he tweeted about it — repeatedly.

“These anti-congestion-relief activists show no regard for the hundreds of thousands of you who are stuck in soul-crushing traffic every day,” began one tweet.

From another: “While these activists plot to keep the roads filled with traffic, our relief plans have received broad support, advancing through public hearings, workshops, meetings & votes.”

He also dubbed the attendees “pro-traffic activists.”

If anyone is pro-traffic in this issue, surely it’s whichever company ends up winning the contract to build and maintain the high-occupancy toll lanes. It will make money only if there’s traffic — traffic that drives motorists from the “free” lanes to the paid lanes.

But leaving that aside, to smear Maryland citizens who are rightfully concerned about their backyards, their parks, the environment and their state’s fiscal health as “anti-congestion-relief” and “pro-traffic” is to borrow from the playbook of one of the most noxious Twitter users out there.

I’d have more respect for the governor if from the start he’d said, “Look, the laws of physics mean two objects cannot occupy the same space. Adding four lanes will require some people to lose their homes and businesses. I believe it’s for the greater good.”

But he didn’t. And now he’s getting snippy.


These area high schools are planning reunions:

Ballou High Class of 1969 — Sept. 28. Visit BallouClassof1969.com.

Bishop D.J. O’Connell Class of 1969 — Oct. 11-13. Email DJO6950th@gmail.com. Or search “Bishop Denis J O’Connell High School Class of 1969” on Facebook.

Herndon High All-Class Reunion — Through Class of 1978. June 2. Email Ann Roberts Jenkins at mann_jenkins@yahoo.com.

Thomas Jefferson High (Alexandria) Class of 1969 — Sept. 13-15. Email Christy H. Hubbard at mspedo@gmail.com or call 757-373-8231.

Twitter: @johnkelly

For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/john-kelly.