Columbus, Pineapple Wine & Pineapple Swipe - "It will, 'swipe your head off'."
After Columbus "discovered" the pineapple, he quickly realized that the natives seemed to prefer it as a drink. Columbus was struck by the ubiquity of these drinks which he referred to as 'wine', recording in his journal,
They make another wine out of a fruit which was found in the island of Guadeloupe, like a great pine cone. This plant is sown in extensive fields from the sprout which grows at the top of that very pine cone ... the plant lasts three or four years continually bearing fruit.
John Locke, True Knowledge & the Pineapple
In late 15th century Europe, the gulf between the pineapple's fame and the difficulty satisfying curiosity as to its taste came to epitomize the nature of knowledge itself.
In his On Human Understanding, published in 1690, the empiricist John Locke used the pineapple to argue that true knowledge can only be based on experience. He wrote,
if you doubt this, see whether you can by words give anyone who has never tasted pineapple an idea of the taste of that fruit. He may approach a grasp of it by being told of its resemblance to other tastes of which he already has the ideas in his memory, imprinted there by things he has taken into his mouth; but merely raising up in him other simple ideas that will still be very different from the true taste of the pineapple.
Portrait of John Locke by in 1697 by Godfrey Kneller
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Fruit of Kings - The Pineapple's Debut in Europe
Photo Credit: Hendrick Danckerts (c. 1625-1680), John Rose, the Kings's Gardener, presenting Charles II with a pineapple, supposedly the first grown in England, at Dorney Court, Berkshire, oil on canvas.
When Columbus returned to Spain from his second voyage to the New World, he brought King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella gifts including a single pineapple that arrived unspoiled along with gold nuggets, exotic birds, trees animals and plants. When Ferdinand sampled a pineapple, he declared that he preferred it to all others!
In that era the finest fruits, brought from far away or grown in the King's own garden were regarded as prerequisites of royal tables. This tradition stretched back to antiquity, when rulers of Babylon and Assyria established celebrated gardens where they planted rare trees, fruits and flowers from distant parts of their empires. Ever since maintaining grand gardens of fine fruits had been the greatest of royal and princely luxuries, a source of pride and pleasure.
The palace gardens of Spain were renowned for their fruits, especially oranges, but pineapples could not be grown outdoors there or anywhere else in Europe. Pineapples require tropical warmth throughout the year to flourish.
For the time being ships would bring an occasional pineapple to royalty along with silver, gold, brazilwood, cochineal, pearls and sugar. Royalty in that day considered the pineapple their due. Pineapples arrived to them from faraway places at huge cost and the fruit was the embodiment of majesty. As the French physician Pierre Pomet wrote in his Compleat History of Drugs, was right to call the pineapple
the King of Fruits because it is much the finest and best of all that are upon the Face of the Earth. It is for this Reason that the King of Kings has placed a Crown upon the Head of it, which is an essential mark of its Royalty.
O'Connor, Kaori. "Chapter I: Fruit of Kings." Pineapple: A Global History. N.p.: Reaktion, 2013.
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