As a child I was a fruitarian before I knew there was such a term. Growing up in Jamaica where there were myriad fruits of all kind, I consumed them all during the various seasons, in lieu of food. I remember many of belly-aches from binges on guava, mangoes, cane, neaseberry, jackfruit, and pineapple, the latter, which my mother’s farming family grew in St James. If I had my way I would have only eaten fruits, and during the non-school season when I was allowed to roam the community freely, I only consumed fruits, picking them as I went along.
Canned or processed food was not a part of my diet, and I remember how surprised I was when the first major supermarket opened in Kingston and I saw fruits in cans, in particular pineapple. I could not comprehend how a pineapple could get in a can from the row of mounds I witnessed growing as a child. It was incongruent to me and though I was persuaded to taste it, I did not and still do not like the taste of any fruits from a can.
The first two types of cakes I learned to make were banana cake and pineapple upside down, which I still love-love, although I have not baked one for a long time. My mother would bake ham and seasoned and decorated it with fresh pineapple slices with cloves. I drank pineapple smoothies, we made pineapple ice-cream, and I still like pineapple and mangoes slices and eaten together sprinkled with cinnamon.
Now that I am healing from a broken ankle I was told to eat pineapple as it helps the healing process so I went to the supermarket and bought a lovely one which I allowed to sit in my kitchen for a few days, and yesterday when I peeled and sliced it the sweetness brought me home, and I was returned to my mother’s kitchen on my childhood. She never allowed any aspect of the pineapple to go to waste. She would boil the peel and mix with ginger and brown sugar and we had the drink many Jamaicans refer to as gin-pin.
Pineapple is an excellent source of vitamin C and manganese, and you can’t beat it as a source of copper, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, dietary fiber, folate, and pantothenic acid. Pineapple is indigenous to South America and is said to originate from the area between southern Brazil and Paraguay, and was spread to the Caribbean, Central America and Mexico by the people from these areas, and was first cultivated by the Mayas and the Aztecs.
Columbus, that troublesome fellow, but also his adventure linked the world, is said to have come across the pineapple in Guadeloupe in 1493, and called it piña de Indes, meaning “pine of the Indians.” He brought it back to Spain, and the rest is history or more accurately migration as the Spanish took the pineapple to the Philippines, Hawaii, Zimbabwe, Guam, and later India.
My first children’s book, Piña, The Many Eyed Fruit, which currently is out of print, is my imaginative folktale of how the pineapple came to being. This morning when I ate my fresh mango and pineapple for breakfast, I was reminded of a happy past of abundant, satisfying fruits, which is still with me today. How blessed and very blessed is my life.