The Pineapple (Chatto & Windus, 2005)
“Rich and lively… stuffed with astonishing, tirelessly researched and skilfully presented information… The fruit’s story turns out to be a gripping tale of sex, (imperial) violence and anxieties about status. It is hard to imagine it better told” – Independent on Sunday
This enchanting, juicy history takes us from the pineapple’s origins in the Amazon rainforests to its first tasting by Columbus in Guadeloupe and its starring role on the royal dinner tables of Europe. In the eighteenth-century this spectacular fruit reigned supreme: despite the fact that, at first, to cultivate just one cost the same as a new coach, every great house soon boasted its own steaming pits filled with hundreds upon hundreds of pineapple plants. As the Prada handbag of its day, a real-life, homegrown pineapple was a powerful status symbol, so much so that at first, it was extremely unusual actually to eat the fruit. The image appeared on gateposts, on teapots, furniture and wallpaper.
A new phase opened when growers in the Caribbean began supplying pineapples in the 1840s and later the first canning factory was built in Hawaii. As the story rolls on, through the heyday of pineapple chunks and cocktails, right up to the fashions of today,it touches on pineapples and sex, pineapples and empire, pineapples in art.
Why is the pineapple so special? In one surprising sense it is indeed ideal. Made up of hundreds of separate fruitlets, its spirals embody the gradations of the Golden Mean – it is mathematically perfect. But it is more than that – for years a focus of traveller’s tales, it is a treasure of sight and scent and taste. Packed with fascinating illustrations, this delicious book sees Fran Beauman explore the life and lore of the king of fruits: scholarly, witty and fun, it is a true hamper of delights.
“Engaging…. Compelling… [A] scintillating monograph.” – Times Literary Supplement
“A really fascinating story… enthralling” - Independent
“Beauman’s enthusiasm for her subject gives the book an admirable dynamism… very interesting and well told” – Sunday Telegraph
“It is surprising how few books there are on the history of fruits. Few topics can be more satisfyingly whole or surprisingly rich – more fruitful, in short. The pineapple’s 500-year recorded history leads first-time author Fran Beauman to explore linguistics, social and economic history, colonialism, the industrial revolution, stone masonry, gardening technology and much more…Beauman jauntily rides the pineapple on through history.” – Financial Times
“Superbly entertaining and bizarrely scholarly… Beauman’s passion for the fruit clearly has deep roots and her writing style is an enthusiastic cocktail of juicy anecdotes and erudition in bite-size chunks…” - Good Book Guide