I’ve jumped on the pineapple-obsessed bandwagon.
Maybe it’s because I grew up in a cold, northern climate that something tropical just makes my heart all bubbly. Or maybe it’s the taste of the fruit. Or the spikey green tops. Maybe it’s even just the fact that they also make me think of family vacations as a child when we’d drive to Florida. I’m pretty sure it’s a state fruit or emblem somewhere in the southern U.S.
Whatever my reason, it’s hard not to notice that pineapples are just about everywhere at the moment. Last year it was owls and sparrows. Today it’s the yellow and green of pineapples.
Home retailers are stocked with pineapple canvas prints and mass produced ceramic figurines of pineapples. (I would love to find a vintage one somewhere.) Clothing stores are selling tops and skirts in pineapple prints. Even a little pack of sticky-notes a friend just gave me has a comic-style pineapple on the front.
So what’s the deal with pineapples?
A bit of a history lesson.
The pineapple we know today originated in South America and was cultivated by the indigenous people of Brazil and Paraguay. When Christopher Columbus came along in the late 1400s he ate what the natives called “ananas” or “excellent fruit”, and then brought it back to Europe.
Since it was a tropical fruit, growing pineapples back in Europe proved to be quite difficult. Only royalty and the ultra wealthy could afford gardeners to tend to the plants in greenhouses. These plants only produced one fruit each year, so pineapples were rare indeed.
European settlers to the Americas brought pineapples along, again just for the elites. On both sides of the Atlantic Ocean the pineapple carried with it an immediate class distinction. When people gathered for parties or dinners with a pineapple adorning the tables, everyone knew straight away that their hosts spared no expense for the gathering. The pineapple signaled to guests that they were worth something special.
The pineapple – although it’s a tropical fruit – didn’t make its way to Australia until the later 1800’s. It’s thought the fruit was brought by German missionaries who had travelled through India to get there. Now the Land Down Under is one of the world’s top producers of pineapples.
Somewhere along the lines, pineapples were made into various housewares: doorknobs, light fixtures, stair-railing adornments. If you couldn’t afford or find a real pineapple, at least you could decorate your house with this generous piece of fruit. Then came tinned pineapple, pineapple upside down cake, jelly molds, and other simple ways to include the once, rare fruit into the entertaining regime of the 1950s housewife.
Pineapples and Hungry Hearts.
I’m going to make a giant leap and assumption here. Bear with me.
If the pineapple carries with it the historical weight of being a sign of welcome and hospitality no wonder it’s so popular today. Those sentiments are the very things for which the human heart hungers.
We all want to know we belong. We all want to be welcomed. We want to know we are worth something. Whether we know it or not, that is the symbol the pineapple has taken on in our Western culture. It’s a centuries’ old symbol, and most of us wouldn’t think anything of it.
In an increasingly independent culture, we need symbols that remind us to include one another in times of fun, festivity and friends. We can all use reminders to be welcoming to each other. We need reminders to be generous to others – whether that’s generosity of finances or generosity of time.
So whether you think the pineapple is tacky or tasteful, I say, bring on the pineapple craze.