A symbol of hospitality since the days of the early American colonies.

The legend began with the sea captains of New England, who sailed among the Caribbean Islands and returned bearing their cargo of fruits, spices and rum.

According to legend, the captain would spear a pineapple on a fence post outside his home to let his friends know of his safe return from the sea. The pineapple was an invitation for them to visit, share his food and drink, and listen to tales of his voyage.

The sea captain was not the only one that enjoyed this tradition; a hostess's ability to have a pineapple for an important dining event said as much about her rank as it did about her resourcefulness. So sought after were the prickly fruits that colonial confectioners sometimes rented them to households by the day. Later, the same fruit was sold to other more affluent clients who actually ate it. As you might imagine, hostesses would have gone to great lengths to conceal the fact that the pineapple that was the visual apogee of their table display and a central topic of their guests' conversation was only rented.

Another tradition in larger well-to-do homes, the dining room doors were kept closed to heighten visitors' suspense about the table being readied on the other side. At the appointed moment, and with the maximum amount of pomp and drama, the doors were flung open to reveal the evening's main event. Visitors confronted with pineapple-topped food displays felt particularly honored by a hostess who obviously spared no expense to ensure her guests' dining pleasure.

In this manner, the fruit which was the visual keystone of the feast naturally came to symbolize the high spirits of the social events themselves; the image of the pineapple coming to express the sense of welcome, good cheer, human warmth and family affection inherent to such gracious home gatherings."