Fall of the Pineapple: From Deccan symbol of prestige to deathly fruit

By Pallavi Laxmikanth

Hyderabad: Pineapples are initially native to the lowlands of South America and had been claimed to be ‘discovered’ by Christopher Columbus in the Caribbean in 1493. They had been introduced to India by the Portuguese when Goa was colonised in 1510, and it will definitely reached different locations right here. 

For the Deccan Sultans, like the Qutb Shahis of the Golconda dynasty (1518-1687), the pineapple was an vital symbol of wealth, hospitality and abundance. One can discover pineapple motifs on the Charminar, and its design parts on nearly each Qutb Shahi or Golconda period tomb. 

Pallavi Laxmikanth

In his seminal work, The Historical Companion to Indian Food, Ok T Achaya particulars its look in Indian historical past. The fruit is first identified to be described in India in 1564, practically 100 years earlier than it was seen in England, famous each in the Ain i Akbari (a sixteenth century doc detailing the administration of emperor Akbar and accounts from Mughal emperor Jahangir’s reign for its expensiveness – the worth for 1 pineapple was equal to that of 10 mangoes!

For residents of the Deccan, and people conversant in its historical past, the pineapple is a standard architectural and design motif, usually adorning tombs and different monuments. In truth, the tomb of Sultan Abdullah Qutb Shah, the sixth Golconda king, has doorways adorned with pineapple motifs. 

How did a fruit of Portuguese prestige flip right into a Deccani symbol of wealth and hospitality? 

The History

While pineapples simply grew in tropical climates, they had been a lot tougher to develop in colder, European climates. Driven by the calls for for candy pineapple pleasures amongst the European elite, the Dutch first took up the challenges of grafting it in greenhouses in the Netherlands (O’Connor 2013).

There was restricted success with these experiments and pineapple consumption continued solely by imports – which solely the rich may afford. Its relative shortage and worth shortly made it a standing symbol of wealth amongst the Spanish, Dutch and Portuguese elite. 

Pineapples would enhance eating tables and could be carried round to be ‘shown off’ by households. Recently featured in the hit Netflix present Bridgerton, which is ready to Victorian England, one might discover the pineapple delicately positioned like a crown jewel, adorning the banquet tables of the English aristocracy.

On social events, dilemmas would typically come up – ought to or not it’s minimize and served or displayed for everybody to see? 

Goa, with its tropical local weather and wealthy soil, was fertile floor for the pineapple plantation economic system. When the Portuguese took over Goa from the Bijapur Sultan Yusuf Adil Shah, processes of cultural trade in the new reign resulted in pineapples rising in significance additionally amongst the Deccani royalty.

Qutb Shahi tombs (Photo: Siasat)

Disliked by the (British) East India Company

However, the place of prestige occupied by pineapples diminished with the entry of the East India Company in India. When they first arrived, brokers of the firm had been suggested by specialists (corresponding to the British surgeon Johnson) to deal with consuming native meals as they might be higher suited to dwelling in tropical climates. 

They had been nevertheless, requested to proceed with warning by accompanying the British military surgeon Johnson – “The European in India should eat a simple breakfast, stick to boiled rice made with local spices, and eat only limited amounts of unfamiliar fruits, including mangoes (“which not seldom bring out a plentiful supply of pustules, or even boils, on the unseasoned European”) and pineapples although Johnson admitted that each had been ‘delicious’.”

In his guide, Nourishing Imperial Foodways, Andrew Rotter elaborates on how the British, who liberally consumed native meals corresponding to ‘curries’, ‘kebabs’ and ‘pilafs’ (thought-about to be one other model of biryani) and even mangoes and pineapples, retracted from consuming them after the revolt of 1857. 

The occasion was catalysed by the British introduction of gun cartridges lined with greased paper (to be bitten off by the sepoys prior to loading) which was supposedly produced from beef and pork fats. The rise up cemented the tongue and its tastes as a floor of political contestation on Indian soil, following which, the British turned away from native culinary practices and sought to exert dominance by selecting to ship in and devour meals corresponding to bread and tinned meat from Britain.

Through narratives round improper hygiene and the risks of being poisoned by native meals, the British sought to impose a way of ‘civilisation’ on the Indians and keep their energy and identification. All native meals was labelled suspicious and had to be cleaned with potassium permanganate or ‘pinky’.

Compounded by the British’s lack of familiarity and lack of ability to digest the fruit, the pineapple gained the doubtful repute of inflicting indigestion and even demise. The passing away of Rose Aylmer, daughter of Sir Henry Aylmer, a British Aristocrat in Calcutta, was attributed to ‘an excess consumption of pineapples’.

t is probably going that this was due to the fruit being seen as a service of Cholera – however the harm finished to its repute exaggerated its obvious inedibility. While it was not unusual for the foreigners to defame and specific their dislike and worry of ‘native’ fruits for gustatory in addition to political causes, the rhetorics constructed by the British proceed to linger in trendy dietary recommendation, at occasions with out adequate analysis to again it.

Many seasonal and native fruits corresponding to mangoes, guavas, jackfruit and pineapples are discouraged by eating regimen charts and downgraded as comestibles for good well being for being excessive in sugars and calorie content material. In their place, typically apples, kiwis and pears are really useful, which aren’t endemic to India.

Foreign politics apart, pineapples are a wealthy supply of vitamin C, fiber and manganese and when grown organically and eaten seasonally, are helpful to well being. Pineapples are additionally, past only a ‘sweet fruit’ and have cultural that means, relevance and significance. Perhaps, taking inspiration from our Deccani roots, we will flip again to consuming and celebrating it, as a symbol of wealth, hospitality, satisfaction and Deccani identification.

Pallavi Laxmikanth is a Medical Anthropology and Gender Studies PhD candidate at the University of Adelaide. Her analysis focuses on meals, markets and metabolic diseases in Hyderabad.

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