My Memories of Delicious Pineapple, a Symbol of Southern Hospitality
My mother, Kent, grew up in a small town in South Carolina, but she was born in 1948 in distant Hawaii, where her parents lived when they were newlyweds and where my grandmother stayed while her husband traveled even farther afield during World War II. When my mother served anything with pineapple, my young mind assumed it was because of her glamorous Hawaiian origins.
Mom didn’t love cooking and minimized her time in the kitchen accordingly. She had more exciting things to do, like practice hula dancing. Or so I thought. I had a very active imagination, including the ability to take one interesting tidbit and run with it. She made the occasional ambrosia on holidays, but she was more likely to top vanilla ice cream with canned chopped pineapple or suspend a few perfectly shaped slices in lime gelatin, which was my absolute favorite.
When I grew older, I realized pineapples weren’t specific to my family but a symbol of hospitality to just about everyone in the South. In years past, when fresh pineapple was particularly dear due to its inability to travel long distances, guests presented with pineapple understood they were welcomed as well as honored. Colonial hostesses who weren’t wealthy enough to buy the prized fruit could rent one for the day to use as a centerpiece. They must have had incredible restraint, because who could resist cutting into the juicy fruit and devouring it?
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It wasn’t until I met my husband, whose parents really were rather glamorous, that I tasted fresh pineapple. While I’d love to claim a more sophisticated palate, I didn’t notice that much of a difference. Thanks to my own Southern upbringing, I love the fruit in all its delicious forms: canned, fresh, candied in a fruitcake, baked into a casserole with cheese, or stirred into salsa.
These days, you can almost always find fresh pineapple at the supermarket, but that doesn’t make it any less special to me. I have maintained enough of an imagination to still find the bright yellow fruit inside its prickly outer shell at least a little exciting.