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Pineapples; the World's Favorite Bromeliad

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  • Pineapples; the World's Favorite Bromeliad

    [align=left]The Pineapple[/align]

    [align=left]has served as both a food and a symbol throughout the human history of the Americas. Orignally unique to the Western Hemisphere, the fruit was a favorite of the Carib Indians who lived on islands in the sea that still bears their name.[/align]


    [align=left]Indian Migration and Commerce:[/align]

    [align=left]The presence of pineapples on Caribbean islands was not a natural event, but rather the result of centuries of indian migration and commerce. Accomplished dugout canoe navigators, the maritime tribes explored, raided and traded across a vast expanse of tropical oceans, seas and river systems.[/align]

    [align=left]The herbaceous plant they called "anana" or "excellent fruit", originally evolved in the inland areas of what is now Brazil and Paraguay and was widley transplanted and cultivated. Highly regarded for its intense sweetness, the "excellent fruit" was a staple of indian feasts and rites related to tribal customs. It was also used to produce Indian Wine.[/align]

    [align=left]Christopher Columbus:[/align]

    [align=left]The first encounter between a European and a pineapple occured in November, 1493, when Columbus on his second voyage to the Caribbean regon, lowered his boats off the volcanic island of Guadaloupe and went ashore to inspect a deserted Carib village.[/align]

    [align=left]There, among the jungle folage and wooden pillars with serpant carvings, his crew came across cook pots filled with human body parts. Nearby were piles of freshly gathered vegetables and fruits, including pineapples. The European sailors ate and recorded the curious new fruit which had an abrasive, segmented exterior like a pine cone and a firm interior pulp like an apple.[/align]

    [align=left]Renaissance Europe:[/align]

    [align=left]The Renaissance Europe to which Columbus returned with his discoveries was a civilization largely in need of common sweets. Sugar refined from cane was a rare commodity imported at great cost from the middle east and orient. Fresh fruit was also a rare item; orchard-grown fruit being available in only limited varieties for brief periods of time.[/align]

    [align=left]Pineapple: Treat of Kings:[/align]
    In such gastronomic times, reports and later samples of the New World's pineapple... whose ripe yellow pulp literally exploded natural sweetness when chewed... made the fruit an item of celebrity and curiosity for royal gourmet and horticulturist alike. Despite efforts by European gardeners, it was almost two centuries before they were able to perfect a hothouse method for growing a pineapple plant.

    [align=left]Into the 1600's, the pineapple remained so uncommon and coveted a commodity that King Charles II of England posed for an offical portrait in an act then symbolic of royal privilege... receiving a pineapple as a gift.[/align]
    Pineapples and Colonial America:

    [align=left]Across the ocean, the pineapple took on other symbolic meanings in England's American colonies. The colonies were then a land of small, primitive towns and settlements where homes served as the hubs of most community activity. Visiting was the primary means of entertainment and news. The concept of hospitality... the charm and style with which guests were taken into the home... was a central element of the society's daily life.[/align]

    [align=left]Creative food display... the main entertainment during a formal home visit... was a means by which a woman declared both her personality and her family's status. Tabletops resembled small mountain ranges of tierded foodstuffs, with china figurines, festooned with flowers and garlands of pine and laurel. Dinners were extravaganzas of visual delights, novel tastes, new discoveries and congenial conversation that went on for hours.[/align]
    Rare Pineapple: King of Colonial Fruits

    [align=left]Dried, candied and jellied... were the major attractions of the community's appetite and dining practices, the pineapple was the true celebrity. Its rarity, expense, reputation and striking visual attractiveness made it the ultimate exotic fruit. It was the pineapple that came to crown the most important feasts; often held aloft on special pedestals as the pinnacle of the table's central food mound.[/align]
    The Colonial Pineapple Trade:

    [align=left]Ships brought in preserved pineapples from Caribbean islands as expensive sweetmeats, pineapple chunks candied, glazed and packed in sugar. The actual whole fruit was even more costly and difficult to obtain.[/align]

    [align=left]Wooden ship travel in the tropics was hot, humid and slow, often rotting pineapple cargoes before they could be landed. Only the fastest ships and best weather conditions could deliver ripe, wholsome pineapples to the confectionery shops of cities such as Boston, Philadelphia and Williamsburg.[/align]

    [align=left]A hostesses's ability to have a pineapple for an important dining event said as much about her rank as it did about her resourcefulness, given that the street trade in available fresh pineapples could be as brisk as it was bitchy. So sought after were the prickly fruits that colonial confectioners sometimes rented them to households by the day. Later, the same fruit was sold to other, more afflunet clients who actually ate it. As you might imagine, hostesses would have gone to great lengths to conceal the fact that the pineapple that was the visual centerpiece at their table display and a central topic of their guests' conversation was only rented.[/align]

    [align=left]During the last century, the art of food display centered around the pineapple has faded to a quaint craft now largely associated with the making of certain kinds of Christmas decorations. These holiday fabrications are one of the few vestiges of an era when all life revolved around the dining room table; a less complicated era that left us the enduring icon of the colonial pineapple, a truly American fruit symbolizing our founding society's abiding commitment to hospitality as well as its fondest memories of families, friends and good times..........[/align]