My mouth is watering as I write this. All because of a tropical fruit, the pineapple.
The pineapple has a uniquely American history and somewhat sordid past as a symbol of hospitality. It’s arrival in the colonies dates as far back as Christopher Columbus. This exotic fruit, which has a strong flavor both tart and sweet, is the reason my mouth is watering. It was first brought to the Americas from the islands of the Caribbean and the West Indies by sea captains. They had discovered it’s rough exterior, which oddly resembled a pinecone, disguised a sweet and juicy flesh. Upon their return from sea, these captains would stake a pineapple outside of their home to indicate they had returned, triumphant.
Hostesses began to pay exorbitant fees just to have a pineapple on display at their table. The pineapple rapidly became the most desired of fruits and gained popularity among the wealthy as well as kings abroad for it’s exotic appeal. In the colonies, pineapples were elevated to a status symbol and indicated what lengths a hostess was willing to go to in order to impress her guests.
The pineapple eventually found a comfortable place as a uniquely American symbol of hospitality. Pineapples now appear as carvings in furniture, on top of finials, and as garden ornaments, and they take their rightful place among the many early designs in American furniture.
Nowadays, you can find pineapples embroidered on linens, as the base of a lamp, on top of a four-poster bed, and as the subject of chandeliers and garden ornaments. The pineapple has truly established itself as a welcoming symbol, one that harkens back to the early days of our country and can be proudly displayed in your home.
However, some skeptics say the pineapple symbolizing hospitality is just a myth. I would argue that you need look no farther than the “SpongeBob Squarepants” cartoon as authority.
SpongeBob lives in “a pineapple under the sea” where he regularly entertains Patrick and Squidward. And as if this were not proof enough, almost every historical property or inn on the East Coast sports a pineapple somewhere in their home or garden.
Why not indulge in the myth of the native fruit as an early American symbol of hospitality? It is in fact a good story, whether it is true or not, and I will do my best to promote it as such.
© copyright 2012 Mariam d’Eustachio.