The Pineapple, The Sea Captain and How A Legend Began…

Sailors are known for their stories. You’d be hard-pressed to go to any ocean-enthusiasts house and not hear a tale of the extraordinary fish caught, or the summer storm turned sour or the port city that lured like a siren song.  But did you ever hear the story about the pineapple? The one that tells how it became one of the most iconic symbols in the world? Today in the Vintage Kitchen, we’ve got a legend on the table.

There are a few versions surrounding the pineapple and how it became known as the universal symbol of hospitality. Some stories claim it was a gift of peace offered to foreign explorers by local Caribbean tribes.  Other stories state it was a sought-after souvenir traded around South America until it eventually was welcomed in Europe for experimental gardening. Another explains that it was a status symbol of the very rich and the very royal who used it as a party decoration to signify the extent of their wealth, visually reinforcing the fact that they could indeed offer the best of everything to their guests, no matter what the cost. But our favorite version in the Vintage Kitchen, of how the pineapple came to be a hospitality icon, is the one that dates to the 1700’s in the time of the sea captains.

That legend states that merchant trading ships like this…

A Chesapeake Bay style sloop was a common merchant ship traveling between the West Indies and the Eastern Atlantic coast.

carried cargo (mainly sugar, tobacco, rum, and molasses) back from the Caribbean islands to various ports in New England. Included in their bounty was the exotic tropical pineapple, a fruit so unusual in its beauty, so incredible in its sweetness and so valuable in its price, it was treated delicately just like its most precious counterpart, sugar.

When the ship was back in port and safely unpacked, the captain would return home to his New England house with a pineapple in hand.  He would spear this fruit on the front garden gate to signify to friends and neighbors that he had returned from his ocean voyage and was ready to entertain visitors with good stories and good food.

The centuries-old houses of Kennebunkport, Maine where many a sea captain lived.

With just the right amount of whimsy and practicality, it is not hard to see how such a story and such an action could have spread throughout the village, and then the state, and then the coastline, so that within time, hundreds of garden gates across many states were bearing pineapples – a symbol of friendly invitation, warm welcome and kind generosity.

Pineapple gates in Odessa, DE

No one yet has accurately been able to authenticate the first-time connection between pineapples and hospitality, but this sea captain story may help explain why you’ll find pineapples incorporated into outdoor architectural details all over the East Coast from Maine to Florida.

Appearing in gardens both ancient and new…

Permanent pineapples in the garden.

…history tells of America’s long-standing love affair with this hospitable fruit.  You’ll see it on the front doors of old houses like this one…

The historic Hunter House in Newport, Rhode Island built in 1748.

 

There’s the pineapple above the door, welcoming all who enter.

and this one…

Virginia’s Shirley Plantation, completed in 1738, which boasts a three-foot tall pineapple in the middle of the roofline…

and in the decorative details of brand new, modern days houses…

Pineapple themed door knockers, welcome signs, doorbells, and house number plaques announce an age-old symbol on brand-new exteriors.

You’ll also find them indoors…

Most often as finials front entry staircases…

blending classic and traditional elements from past centuries to the present century…

Pineapples in all modern ways useful… ice bucket, lamp,bookends, flower vase.

Last week we added a new vintage pineapple to the shop…

This one was neither a finial nor an exterior facade detail but instead at one point in its life had adorned the top of a fountain.  The fountain wasn’t as big as Charleston’s famous Waterfront Park pineapple…

Waterfront Park, Charleston SC

but she is an ideal size for many design possibilities including lighting, decoration, and display.  And she carries forth the sea captain’s theme of good stories and good food in a most beautiful way.

Even though we might never be able to uncover where and how the pineapple became involved with the convivial idea of good hospitality, we still love the idea of one fruit bringing together three centuries worth of parties and people. Critics would say that the sea captain story is flawed because pineapples were expensive and traders wouldn’t put a small fortune out in plain view for anyone to steal. But hospitality is about extending and offering, not squandering and hiding, so clearly, the argument could go either way.

If you a were a sailor in the 1700’s, at sea for long stretches of time, with life and death equally close at hand, perhaps you needed a little frivolity upon returning home to family and friends and the pineapple provided just that. A simple yet beautiful billboard. One that symbolized rich with life lived instead of rich with monetary wealth.

Cheers to the legends that stick around and to the fruits that travel through time!

Channel your own inner sea captain and set the stage for your next nights of entertainment. Find the vintage fountain topper pineapple piece in the shop here!

 

 

Nyquist, New Items and a Derby Duel

Nyquist's photo courtesy of Coady Photography
Nyquist’s photo courtesy of Coady Photography

Ladies and gentlemen, the race has been won. And the contest almost was too! If you missed the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, here’s a two-minute replay of the race…

It was an exciting experience right up unto the finish line this year with Nyquist and Exaggerator storming down the track with just mere inches between them and the win.  Which is exactly what happened in Ms. Jeannie’s Derby contest also. While no one picked Nyquist as a winner, there were two readers who both placed favorites on Exaggerator as the horse to beat. How exciting, because he almost was!

derby4_exaggerator
Official 2016 Derby placers: Nyquist (1st) Exaggerator -pictured above (2nd) and Gun Runner (3rd).

Since there was no official winner, in the land of Ms. Jeannie, prizes selected for this year’s blog contest will carry over to next year, where we can all try again guessing for glory.  In the meantime, a big congrats goes out to blog readers Amanda and Renee for both selecting Exaggerator.  Will they be able to duel it out next year for permanent status in the winner’s circle? Anticipation is already building and we are still 360 days away from the next Derby date! Oh my.

Outside of the racetrack,  a horse of a different sort leads the pack of new items that just galloped their way into the bookshop. Browse a bit here…

Clockwise from top left: Vintage 1960s Casserole Cookbook, Vintage 1960s Nut Recipes Cookbook, Vintage Art House Photograph Portrait, Vintage !970's New England Cookbook, Vintage Italian Florentine Landscape Paintings, Two 1920s French Language Books, Handpainted Floral Tile
Clockwise from top left: Vintage 1950’s Animal Anatomy Prints, Vintage 1960’s Nut Recipes Cookbook, Vintage Art House Photograph Portrait, Vintage 1970’s New England Cookbook, Vintage Italian Florentine Landscape Paintings, Two 1920s French Language Books, Vintage Hand-painted Ceramic Tile, Vintage Hand-carved Bird Portrait Plaque, 1960’s Grecian Style Pedestal Dish

This collection of items is all about easy, effortless living and decorating. As we gear up for farmer’s market season, the vintage cookbooks provide new inspiration in the kitchen while the wall and bookshelf art provide instant (ready to hang!) style.

If something catches your eye click on the corresponding link below the picture for more info or reply to this post and Ms. Jeanne will be happy to place it on reserve for you.

A big, big thank you to everyone who participated in this year’s Derby contest and for taking the time to pop-in and cast your vote. Cheers to you for keeping life fun and interesting!