As part of the Festival of Ideas this month, Fellow Dr Kasia Boddy took part in an event at the Fitzwilliam Museum entitled ‘From the Exotic to the Everyday: Changing Attitudes to the Pineapple’.
The exotic was represented by Dr Emma Spary and Dr Melissa Calaresu, from the History Faculty. Emma spoke about the cultivation and reception of the pineapple in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries where it was considered the king of fruits – not least because of its crown.
Melissa discussed its connection to the Fitzwilliam Museum itself, focusing on Theodorus Netscher’s painting from the garden of Sir Matthew Decker, grandfather of the museum’s founder.
Kasia said: “The Fitzwilliam Museum is a very pineappley place as a new exhibition, curated by Melissa and Dr Victoria Avery and opening on 26 November, demonstrates. Feast and Fast: The Art of Food in Europe, 1500-1800 includes Netscher’s painting, a wonderful pineapple teapot and, of course, the unmissable pineapples on the railings outside.
“My focus at the Festival of Ideas event was on the 20th century, when pineapples became an everyday exotic.
“I talked about the development of plantations in Hawaii and the way the fruit was marketed by companies like Del Monte and Dole as both primitive and - in its convenient tinned form - very modern.”
Kasia also looked at the mid-century ‘tiki’ craze in American suburbia, where pineapple was the ingredient that went with everything - from a piña colada to jelly and cottage cheese.
“The great dish of the time was the ham-and-pineapple Hawaiian pizza, invented by Sam Panopoulos, a Greek immigrant who ran a diner in southwestern Ontario.
"Here culinary nationalism reaches its reductio ad absurdum - a Greek adapts an Italian dish by adding a South American fruit, which had come to be associated with Hawaii, and creates a dish that comes to be seen as Canadian.
“In 2017, when the President of Iceland jokily proposed a ban on Hawaiian pizza, it was inevitable the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would tweet his allegiance to Team Pineapple.”
For more fruity tales, come to the conference Power, Promise, Politics: The Pineapple from Columbus to Del Monte, organised by Melissa, Victoria and Dr Lauren Gardiner in February 2020 in the Botanic Garden. Kasia will be there talking about Georgia O’Keefe and Wallace Stevens, and playing Elvis songs.