Pineapple

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In 1493, good old asshat of all trades Chris Columbus set sale on his second voyage to the New World.  Though still refusing to believe he hadn't sailed to India, he did land on a small island called Guadeloupe and discover the most amazing of fruits that was so golden and sweet that he and his crew became totally enraptured by it.  Now this magical fruit probably already had a perfectly good name, but not being that kind of guy, Columbus said fuck that name and started calling it the pineapple.  You know, because it kind of looked like pine cone, and it was sweet, and apples are sweet, just in a different way, but fuck it, why the hell not.  When Columbus turned to go home, he and his men loaded as many pineapples as they could, stuffing them in amongst all the other things they were bringing back, including 560 less than happy about it natives.  Well, the pineapples didn't fair well, what with the ships' holds being the unfortunate combination of moist and hot as hell, resulting in a less than optimal amount of rot.  However, Columbus, being a bit of a gambler, still presented this rotten bounty to the Spanish royal court, who declared the fruit the most delicious fucking thing they had ever eaten.  Oh yeah, 200 of the enslaved natives died on he voyage as well, and most of the rest soon after, but we're talking about pineapples right now, so you know, why spoil things by mentioning that.  

Anyways, people in Spain were totally nuts about the pineapple, by which I mean the monarchy and the super rich since they were the only ones that could afford them.  It was a real bitch getting pineapples across the Atlantic, and only the fastest ships with the luckiest captains had any chance of getting the fruit back to Europe in time.  As more European powers made claims to the Caribbean, the popularity of the pineapple spread across the continent.  This was pretty much how everything stayed for the next two hundred years, mostly because when your wealth stems from the fact that you were just born lucky, maintaining the status quo seems a little more important than innovation.  

As the seventeenth century began to come to a close, the Dutch began to dominate world trade, and more specifically the Caribbean.  This is an interesting factoid given how small the Netherlands was, but it had a bit of a leg up given that it was one of the first capitalistic societies in the world, where if you had a good idea you were allowed to run with it until either you were flat broke or fabulously wealthy.  Since new money loved ridiculously expensive things just as much as the old aristocracy, some of these Dutch capitalists began working on the pineapple problem.  The first breakthrough by these sweet toothed pioneers was to bring unripened pineapples over, and then ripening them in special rooms with controlled heat and humidity.  Feeling they were on the right track, but not quite there, they than developed a way to grow them in Europe in specially designed hothouses which mimicked their native growing conditions.  This brought the price down to around $8,000 (in today's money) per fruit.  

Suddenly affordable for the rich, rather than just the we fucking have all the money rich, the pineapple became a popular sign of wealth across Europe.  People would buy a pineapple to use as a centerpiece at their fancy dinner parties, or even just to carry around to show off.  For those who couldn't afford to out right buy a pineapple, merchants were willing to rent them for the night.  Such rental pineapples would pass from hand to hand over the course of days before finally being sold to a final buyer who would end up eating the damn thing right before it became too rotten.  Those who couldn't even afford a pineapple rental purchased fake pineapples, which undoubtedly resulted in all sorts of embarrassing shenanigans and social faux pas.  Over time the pineapple began to symbolize generosity and hospitality.  The golden fruit began to appear across all art mediums, and many homes were decorated with as many pineapple motifs as possible.  Dishes, napkins, bedposts, wallpapers, and teapots.  All were either covered in pineapples or made to look like them.  Even some buildings were built to look like the damn things.                

The advent of refrigeration and canning during the nineteenth century further brought down the price of the pineapple, but it didn't become the common food we all know today until James Dole started his pineapple plantation in Hawaii in 1900.  Using a combination of mechanization, importing foreign workers, and paying people very shitty wages, Dole managed to bring the price of canned pineapple to a record low, driving the competition out of business to the point that at one point he controlled 75 percent of the pineapple trade.  To promote his product, he launched the first nationwide consumer advertising campaign in the United States in 1907.  In 1927, he sponsored the Dole Air Race, promising a sizable sum to the first pilot daring enough to fly from Oakland to Honolulu.  Though ten people died, two planes managed to make it, proving that such a flight could be made.  Soon after, Dole began shipping fresh pineapples to the mainland by plane. 

Hawaii remained the center of the pineapple trade until the 1990's, when people began to figure out that they could just pay people shitty wages in their home countries rather than shipping them to Hawaii.  Today, most pineapples are grown in Costa Rica, Brazil, the Philippines, Thailand, India, and Indonesia.  You can buy one for five bucks, or even less, you know, if it's on sale.