Rosewater, Wine, Sugar…and Tomato Sauce?

In November of 1493, intrepid Italian Christopher Columbus ruined pizza when, on his second voyage to the New World, he discovered piña de Indes, or Indian pine, which the Carib people called ananas, because it’s not a pinecone and they lived nowhere near India.

What he found was a spiky headed fruit that Spanish historian Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo y Valdes, writing in 1513, called “the most beautiful fruit of any of the fruits I have seen” and what today we know (thanks in part to Columbus) as the pineapple.

Sugar hungry Europeans generally thought this discovery was pretty neat, and almost immediately they began attempting to cultivate the pineapple a little closer to home. That proved pretty tough, because a tropical climate is something Europe definitely doesn’t have.

Charles II looking super excited to be receiving a pineapple. Hendrick Danckerts [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
It was the Dutch that discovered the trick first, probably because the Dutch West Indies Company had a stranglehold on the pineapple importation business. And it may have been economist and businessman Pieter de la Court who, by the late 17th century, did it best in his innovative hot house that kept the soil and air temperatures in the range most conducive to pineapple cultivation.

Of course De la Court is remembered today not so much for his pineapple cultivating prowess, but rather for his writings in support of a thriving free market and his general disdain for the Caribbean shipping monopoly held by the Dutch West Indies Company. It seems likely then that he may have succeeded with the pineapple out of spite.


Coincidentally, I assume spite is the same reason otherwise seemingly reasonable people sprinkle pizza with a fruit described by 17th century English Botanist John Parkinson as tasting “as if Rosewater, wine, and sugar were mixed together.”

I admit pineapple is not my favorite fruit. It’s fine for garnishing fruity drinks when you’ve run out of cocktail umbrellas, but I just find it too sweet unless it’s cut with something a little less cloying. And no, I don’t mean tomato sauce, cheese, and ham. Yuck.

Steve pineapple
I can’t argue with this use of pineapple.

Actually, I think early pineapple enthusiasts in both Europe and America of the 18th and 19th centuries might have been on to something when they tended to see the pineapple as more decorative than consumable. Importing the perishable tropical fruit from the Caribbean was costly, often prohibitively so. If a host could get his hands on one to place in the middle of an elegant table display, it was sure to impress.

I don’t know if the rumor is true, but I think I’d like to live in a world in which people used to rent pineapples in order to impress their friends.

The pineapple then became a symbol of hospitality, gracing not only table displays, but also frequently as a feature of art and design. And if the Internet’s favorite pineapple rumor can be believed, the fruit was even available to rent for a special occasion, only to be later sold to the extremely wealthy who could actually afford to eat it.

By the early 1900s, James Dole had come along and begun his Hawaiian Pineapple Company (later the Dole Fruit Company), which soon made canned pineapple widely available, for a long time supplying more than 75% of the world’s pineapple needs. And now it’s so easy to get hold of, we even put it on pizza. Just to be clear, by we, I mean people who evidently have no taste buds and who are definitely not me.

So really maybe James Dole should get the blame. I suppose I can let Columbus off the hook for this one.

15 thoughts on “Rosewater, Wine, Sugar…and Tomato Sauce?

  1. ah good, i thought you were one of those who put pineapple on pizza… haha! 🙂 pineapple is also interesting as i think English is the only language on this planet in which the fruit is not called “ananas”

  2. The effervescent pineapple! Nectar of the gods, though not suitable to schmear with tomato sauce, cheese, or pepperoni. I suppose it could resemble a pinecone, it’s certainly as difficult to cut open. A sharp machete to slice away the prickly layer is required, and, thankfully for Mr. Dole, most of us do not keep a machete in our kitchen. We are more likely to have a spiralizer (especially if we watched commercials in the middle of the night during Christmas shopping season) which is way too small to spiral cut a pineapple. But if we could! Oh, to lay back in a chaise lounge and nibble a long strand of juicy fruit while being fanned with fronds from the pineapple tree. Of course my tongue would burn and lips swell exponentially with every tidbit but well worth apoplexy. But I do have a beef (also a meat not well suited to pairing with fruit) with Mr. Dole. I buy his canned rosewater/wine/sugar concoction for my famous carrot cake but I always have some leftover. As I will not put it on pizza, it sits in the fridge until thick and moldy. What to do? It’s far too precious to throw out. And speaking of mold, I don’t like that on my cheese either.

  3. If I had a fresh pineapple, I would cut it open right now. Instead, I am headed to the pantry to open a can and fish out the sweet, juice pieces of one of my favorite fruits! No problem with too much sweetness for this sweet tooth! 😊

  4. “I assume spite is the same reason otherwise seemingly reasonable people sprinkle pizza with a fruit described by 17th century English Botanist John Parkinson as tasting “as if Rosewater, wine, and sugar were mixed together.””- hahaha oh my goodness, my thoughts exactly!!

I love comments! Please keep them PG, though. I blush easily.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s