The Pineapple: Symbol of Hospitality for Generations
The pineapple as a welcoming icon can trace its roots to Christopher Columbus, who brought the succulent fruit back to Europe from its ancestral home in the late 1400s. Believed to have originated in Brazil and Paraguay, Columbus "discovered" the fruit in Guadeloupe in 1493. Both Columbus and Sir Walter Raleigh were reported to have returned to their homelands with pineapples (nicknamed "pina" because of their visual similarity to pinecones).
At the time, Europe enjoyed little fresh or sweet fruit, and kings were enamoured with the rich sweet pineapple. At their insistence, royal gardeners toiled for more than two hundred years in their attempts to create an artificial environment appropriate for its cultivation. Captain James Cook is credited with bringing pineapples to the Pacific Islands, where growing conditions were found to be nearly ideal. During that same time, pineapples began to appear in early American colonies, as sea captains sailed north from the Caribbean Islands, returning with spices, rum, and pineapples.
Legend has it that captains would mount a pineapple on their gateposts outside their home to signify a safe return home. They were also an invitation to visit, enjoy food and drink and hear tales of the sailors' adventures.
The unique shape and symmetry of pineapples presented an enjoyable challenge to carvers and potters, and pineapples as architectural elements started to be integrated into woodworking, and home decor. Especially in the colonies, pineapples became a popular symbol - on bedposts, tablecloths, napkins and throughout the home.
In colonial America, hostesses would place a fresh pineapple as a centerpiece at the table when entertaining visitors in their homes. Visiting was the primary method of cultural exchange, as well as entertainment, so hospitality was central to colonial life. The pineapple symbolized the warmest welcome a hostess could extend to her guests, and was often also served as dessert for the meal.
Creative food display sometimes became a competition among hostesses, demonstrating her personality and her family's social status. Hostesses tried to outdo one another to creating memorable dining events. Colonial grocers sometimes rented pineapples to hostesses desperate to create a dining experience above their financial means. Later, once that hostess had returned the pineapple, the fruit would be sold to more affluent clients who could afford to actually buy and eat it. Regardless of ones financial ability to actually buy and eat the pineapple, however, visitors to the homes that displayed the pineapple felt particularly honored that the hostess had spared no expense on their behalf.
To the present day, the pineapple has remained a familiar symbolic image of welcome, good cheer, and warmth and affection between all who gather inside.
We hope that when you stay at Gold Coast Family Cottages you experience that same hospitality!