~ pineapple tablescape ~

What is important is not how valuable or inexpensive your objects are, but the care and feeling with which you arrange them.” David Hicks (1929-1998)

We are in Rio De Janeiro renting a tiny apartment in Ipanema. Usually I travel nomad style with a few Moroccan textiles to style a temporary space but this time just opted to bring our own linens & towels. Rio has become terribly expensive, and we are on a tight budget.  I  love to buy flowers but I decided to be thrifty and buy edible fruit  instead  as  a way to decorate our table.  From a fruit vendor on the street corner, I picked up a couple of  pineapples with  wild dramatic spikes and tight green scales…Two clear glass cups become the pedestals. Out of almost nothing, I created a tablescape with tropical elegance. 

My inspiration to use pineapples for decoration came from Nancy Lancaster's famous yellow drawing room…where
{if one looks carefully you will see}a pair of pineapples on pedestals flanking  the tall paneled doors.

Christmas in Maine: I  place two pineapples on the serving table. A pair of green-glazed 'Japanese pillow' vases inherited from my grandmother become the pedestals. The pineapples rise splendidly above our traditional festoon of pine boughs and a roast goose surrounded by poached pears. At the time I naively thought placing this  tropical fruit on a New England holiday table was an original idea.

Back in  my Sao Paulo kitchen, my violet orchids are beginning to wilt  just as inflation rises. I replace the orchids with my  pineapples.  I  hang a  small gilded mirror ( from the bixiga flea market) above the wooden table and transform two tarnished brass candlesticks ( from a great aunt)  into  a pair of pedestals for the pineapples…Instantly my kitchen becomes grander.

Then possessed with an obscure curiosity about pineapple, I began to research the history of the plant. Turns out the pineapple plant originated in the Brazil- Paraguay region. Over centuries of migration, Indian tribes spread the fruit through Central America.   Columbus  is credited with 'discovering' the pineapple  in the Caribbean Islands . He brought it back to Spain and its' fame spread though Europe as a  rare luxury fruit.  Explorer Sir Walter Ralegh, wrote of “the great abundance of Pinas, the princesse of fruits that grow vnder the Sun” in his 1595 travelogue Discoverie of the Large, Rich, and Bewtiful Empyre of Guiana.'Into the 1600s, the pineapple remained so uncommon and coveted a commodity that King Charles II of England posed for an official portrait in an act then symbolic of royal privilege"  receiving a pineapple as a gift'{via}Louis XV cultivated the pineapple plant in his gardens at Versailles. 

The pineapple became decorative-arts muse for colonial America. At elegant parties the pineapple starred in formal dinner table centerpieces. A hostess who could not afford to buy a pineapple from her confectioner  could rent a pineapple for her special party. Enchanted guests enjoyed looking at the pineapple and tasting  the exotic luxurious fruit. The coveted pineapple became a status symbol and inspired lace and crochet  patterns, stencils, wallpaper and damask designs, silver and ceramic art objects, bedposts, candelabras, chandeliers,  delicate painted decorations on plates, chairs and chests, etched glassware,  weathervanes, botanical drawings, and beautiful molds for ice creams and candies.

Style visionary Diana Vreeland visited Brazil in 1959  when she edited the fashion pages of Harpers Bazaar and the same year that the film Orfeu Negro, "Black Orpheus",  popularized Bossa Nova music . She was interviewed in Rio de Janerio by El Globo. She said that while flying over the Amazon Rain forest she imagined seeing huge crocodiles with orchids coming out of their mouth. She said this should be the symbol for Brazil. The crocodile representing the forest and its mysteries and dangers, the orchids representing delicate beauty of Brazil.

Prehaps the pineapple could be a similar symbol for Brazil with it's reptilian scales  that speak of the primitive history still alive  in the deep forests and it's sweet flavor representing the beauty here… 

Tomorrow we head back to Sao Paulo. I am packing the ripening pineapple in my wicker food basket. I will cut it up and marinate it  in sugar and rum for dessert.

{images: b
ontanical painting of a pineapple from Christopher Jacob Trew’s Plantae Selectae (Nuremberg, 1750-73),  illustrated by Georg Dionysius Ehret {via}; Nancy Lancaster's  yellow drawing room 1959 {via}; the re-creation of the yellow drawing room with real pineapples painted gold placed on a candelabras in World of Interiors, December issue, 2010}

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