Matt Preston embarks on a voyage of discovery to reveal a secret history.
Matt uncovers pineapple’s secrets.
ALL HAIL THE ULTIMATE green and gold hero, the pineapple. I’ve just trashed my worthy original column championing pineapple in favour of one celebrating its truly racy past. Strap yourself in to discover what really lies beneath the fruit’s reptilian exterior.
BLAME THE PINEAPPLE FOR QUEENSLAND
What came first? The pineapple or the rugby-league-loving northern state? Well, the bizarre truth is, it was the pineapple. The German missionaries who settled near Moreton Bay in 1838 introduced rough leaf pineapples to Australia. Queensland, of course, did not become a state in its own right until 1859.
BLAME THE PINEAPPLE FOR THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
With the cost of producing pineapples in not-very-tropical 18th-century France running at up to $4000 each, the obscene amounts of money spent by Louis XV – and other aristos – to grow the fruit is held up as the sort of excess that fuelled the revolution.
BLAME THE PINEAPPLE FOR THE RISE OF ‘BLING’ CULTURE
It was this very wastefulness that appealed to the poshest folks over the English Channel. In the 18th century, growing pineapples became a national craze for the super-rich, inspired by Chelsea Physic Garden head gardener Philip Miller, who boasted he could grow bigger pineapples than England’s hated trade rival, the Dutch. This all came at vast expense, but, once grown, you could wow guests at your country seat, send fruit to woo married women, or just carry one to the theatre as an ostentatious badge of great wealth.
PINEAPPLE FOR HIRE
Aspiring but cash-strapped society hostesses in 18th-century Boston and New York, where the revelation of the dining table was the highlight of any great dinner party, would rent a pineapple, returning the uneaten fruit to the shop-owner the next day.
PINEAPPLE AS A HINT
In the American south, if you’ve outstayed your welcome as a guest, your hosts will put a pineapple at the foot of your bed.
PINEAPPLE AS A CURSE
According to a Filipino proverb, the pineapple has a thousand eyes because she was originally a little girl cursed by her sick mother for claiming she couldn’t find the ladle to make Mama dinner. Her mother prayed that her little girl would grow 1000 eyes so she’d never be able to use that excuse again. It backfired somewhat, the way most curses do. Still, it’s a good story to scare the kids with.
PINEAPPLE IS DIVINE
Next time someone tells you that pineapple does not belong in a burger or on pizza, point out that the pineapple is divine. The number of eyes on the fruit (rows of eight by 13, or three by five) follows Euclid and Fibonacci’s principles of divine proportions.
PINEAPPLE – SWEET OR SAVOURY
The first published pineapple recipe in English was for a tart using Barbados pineapple cooked down with Madeira wine. Nice! Christopher Columbus was the first European to taste pineapple, but at the feast he came across when he landed in Guadeloupe in 1493 it was being partnered with a savoury stew… of human body parts. This roast pineapple cheesecake contains no body parts – well, unless you’re careless with the whisking!
SPICED PINEAPPLE CHEESECAKE
SERVES 10 Begin this recipe at least 3 hours ahead.
150g Arnott’s Marie biscuits 2 tbs brown sugar 1 tsp ground cardamom 125g unsalted butter, melted 500g cream cheese, softened 395g can sweetened condensed milk Finely grated zest of 1 lemon 3 titanium-strength gelatine leaves 2 eggwhites Chopped toasted macadamias, to serve
500g thinly sliced pineapple,
cut into 3cm pieces 11/ 2 cups (330g) caster sugar Juice of 1 lemon 1 cup (250ml) pineapple juice
Preheat the oven to 160°C. Grease a 22cm springform cake pan and line with baking paper.
To make the base, whiz biscuits, brown sugar and cardamom in a food processor until finely ground. Add butter. Pulse until just combined. Press firmly into base of the prepared pan. Bake for 12 minutes or until golden. Set aside to cool completely.
To make the filling, place cream cheese, condensed milk and lemon zest in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat until smooth. Soak gelatine in cold water for 5 minutes to soften. Squeeze excess water from gelatine. Place in a pan over medium heat and cook, stirring, until just melted. Add to cream cheese mixture and beat until combined. In a separate bowl, whisk eggwhites to soft peaks, then fold through cream cheese mixture. Pour over base. Chill for 3 hours or until set.
For the glaze, place pineapple, sugar, lemon juice and half the pineapple juice in a saucepan over high heat and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, without stirring, for 25 minutes or until golden. Stir in remaining 1/2 cup (125ml) pineapple juice and return to the boil for 20 seconds. Cool to room temperature.
Transfer cheesecake to a plate. Pour over glaze and scatter with nuts to serve.