By the 1770s, “a pineapple of the finest flavour” became a phrase used for anything that was the best of the best. It’s played upon in Sheridan’s 1775 play The Rivals, when Mrs Malaprop confuses the word with “pinnacle” and exclaims: “He is the very pineapple of politeness!”.
The idea that pine apples (as they used to be known) are somehow associated with wealth and status is fairly well-established for those of us who enjoy a trip to a stately home. Engravings can be admired on corbels and finials across the UK, remnants of a time when keeping up with the neighbours meant throwing lavish parties and displaying one’s riches.
The 16th and 17th Centuries saw a number of exotic foods brought back to Europe from the New World and Asia – and the pineapple became most associated with prestige and luxury. According to Dr Lauren O’Hagan from Cardiff University’s School of English, Communication and Philosophy, “the pineapple was previously unknown in the Old World, so it was free of the cultural resonances of other fruits, which enabled people to create new meanings from it”.