A Thing About Pineapples (Angel in the Kitchen)

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Anyone who’s visited our home knows we’re crazy about birds! The walls in nearly every room are adorned with framed prints depicting bluejays, woodpeckers, cardinals and herons, to name a few. But there’s another decorating theme running through Woodhaven: pineapples!

We have friends in Hawaii who continue to send us gifts of handcrafted bowls, spoons and plaques featuring this giant golden fruit, but recently one of them jokingly proclaimed, “You guys need to pick another theme!” She said she’d just about exhausted all the tchotchkes that are available in the “Pineapple State”! Aloha?

So why are we crazy over pineapples? We have the design mounted above our kitchen entrance, on the wall next to the French doors, etched on goblets and mugs, imprinted on coasters and dinnerware; pineapples adorn our candlesticks and napkin rings, our serving pieces and — best of all — the centerpiece we place on the table each year at Christmastime. And as if these decorations weren’t enough, one of us greets our guests wearing tiny gold pineapple earrings! (Hint: it’s not Tom!)

One of these guests, a teenager named Nicolas who was visiting with his parents, spent nearly an entire weekend wandering about the rooms at Woodhaven counting all the pineapples he came across, including a few crafted into the antique furniture. Trust us, his imaginative little game of “Find the Pineapples” kept Nicolas busy for hours. That’s not to say, however, that the inside of our home looks like something out of Charles Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop! We try to … ahem … maintain a modicum of good taste and sensible order at Woodhaven!

Nevertheless, Nicolas finally asked quite politely, “What’s up with all the pineapples?” To answer this question, we need to return to the Colonial Days of America.  No, we don’t need a time machine, we can get there by car! We live within easy driving distance of the first capital of Virginia: Colonial Williamsburg, where the past of over 250 years ago is daily re-enacted.

As we stroll down the streets of Williamsburg we see … pineapples — lots of pineapples — on and above the doors, decorating signs and wreaths, even imprinted on tourist maps and brochures. In fact, the pineapple is one of the official symbols of this Colonial town, because the fruit has an interesting place in its early history.

Christmas decoration featuring pineapples, adorning a building in Colonial Williamsburg, VA.

Columbus had discovered the pineapple on his second trip to the Caribbean in 1493. He took the spiky-skinned fruit back to Spain where it became both a novelty food and a sign of status and wealth. Europeans weren’t able to grow the fruit. At least, not until the first hot-houses were constructed — and those were only built on the grandest estates. So the tropical delicacy had to be imported from the Caribbean; and the fruit had to survive the long humid trip across the Atlantic. Much of the fruit rotted before reaching its destination, but the pineapples that did make it to European tables were expensive indeed!

In Colonial Williamsburg, England’s headquarters in America during the 1700s, pineapples continued to be viewed as luxury items. Whenever the fruit arrived on British merchant ships, a prosperous hostess would quickly send a buyer in the hope of claiming one of the scarce fruits. When she succeeded, she’d place the exotic fruit at the center of the dining table, where all her guests could admire it. At the conclusion of the meal, the pineapple was carved and served to her guests, who considered the rare and expensive fruit the ultimate expression of her hospitality!

The pineapple soon became the symbol of sincere and abundant hospitality, proclaiming “Welcome!”; “¡Bievenidos!”; “Shalom!” — and we’re all for hospitality! In fact, we believe that if people everywhere were more hospitable, we could solve most of the ills of our world.

But that’s why the pineapple motif appears throughout our home. We want our guests to feel welcomed at Woodhaven! And hey! Wanna know what’s really neat about hospitality and the pineapple? Pineapples contain a unique protein enzyme known as bromelain, an all-natural pain reliever. So again, the pineapple is a fitting reminder to be hospitable; because when you welcome people into your home, your act of hospitality goes a long ways to relieving the pain of isolation, loneliness and rejection.

As we celebrate the holidays, please consider opening your heart and home to those around you. And not just your family members. Extend your social circle beyond your friends and relatives. Reach out to your neighbors, coworkers, and the members of your community who often get left out of the Christmastime festivities: singles and people who have lost loved ones; military spouses whose husbands and wives are serving away from home; college students who can’t make it home for the holidays; shut-ins, who spend most of their days in isolation; and  anyone else you happen to meet on the byways of life who can use a little love and reassurance.

The pineapple and hospitality: both let people know they are welcome! “Be hospitable to one another without complaint.” (1 Peter 4:9 NASB) “Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay.” (1 Peter 4:9 NLT)

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