It's said that popularity and importance of the pineapple dates back to the days of Christopher Columbus and his second voyage to the Caribbean where he and his crew had discovered this delicious, exotic fruit. Fresh fruit and sweet treats were rare in Europe. Cane sugar could be imported from the Middle East but at a high price. The pineapple became known as the treat of Kings.
Upon discovery of this this bumpy fruit with the bright yellow meat it would be nearly 2 centuries before European were able to grow the perfect pineapple. Even well into the 1600s, the pineapple remained so uncommon that King Charles II posed for a portrait receiving a pineapple as a gift, then symbolic of royal privilege. During that same time, across the ocean in the newly settled American Colonies, the pineapple took on other symbolic meanings. Since visiting was the primary means of entertainment, hospitality became an important element of society.
Ships would bring in to port preserved pineapples from Caribbean islands as expensive sweetmeats, pineapple chunks candied, glazed and packed in sugar. The whole fruit was even more costly and much more difficult to obtain because the ships were built of wood and travel into the tropics was hot, humid and incredibly slow. These fresh fruits would rot long before the ships would arrive on shore. Only those speediest of ships travelling in agreeable weather could could deliver these fruits. These ships travelled to the ports of cities such as Newport, Boston, Philadelphia, Annapolis and Williamsburg.
A hostess's ability to have a pineapple for an important dining event said as much about her rank as it did about her resourcefulness. In fact this fruit was in such high demand that homeowners often rented them from the colonial confectionery stores and when they were done, the same fruit was then sold to more affluent clients who could afford to eat it! In these larger, wealthier homes dining room doors were often kept closed. This would create an anticipation and excitement as to what might be waiting in the other room. Then with great pomp and circumstance the great dining room doors were push open to reveal a sumptuous feast - pineapple topped food signified that the hostess spared no expense to please her guests. It was then that the fruit became a visual keystone and status symbol symbolizing the great social events that expressed warmth, good cheer, and affection.
Today the pineapple remains the symbol of hospitality both in New England and many of the Southern states. It is the official symbol of the city of Newport, Rhode Island, where it has been a symbol of hospitality since the 1650’s.Sea captains who returned from their long trade voyages placed these beautiful fruits outside their homes to encourage visitors and welcome guests. The pineapple can still be seen in all forms throughout Newport. Walk through downtown and you'll see homes bearing flags, door knockers, welcome mats, even carved into wooden window shutters. In continuing with a tradition that started in the mid 17th Century, during the Fall and Winter Holidays the pineapple can be found over doorways as the centerpiece of fresh fruit displays.
Today this classic symbol remains popular in many households across the nation. From lamps to wallpaper to furniture, the pineapple remains a popular, celebrated classic that adapts blends in naturally with every decor and lifestyle.