Pineapples & Portugal

As much as one might want to, escaping the wall to wall media cover about the Royal Wedding is nigh impossible.  Based on my democratic roots (one of my ancestors was a leading light in the German revolution of 1848), I have a highly developed ability to tune out most party political broadcasts related to Royalty, but one news item caught my attention.  Specifically, it was an analysis of what the then Princess Elisabeth received as wedding gifts that left me with my mouth open.  “Among the perishable items were 500 cases of tinned pineapple for distribution by the bride…”  The mind boggles. Who on earth would send pineapple as a gift? Why would this even be worth mentioning 64 years later?  I buy pineapples at my local greengrocer for $2.99 or $3.99 every week, all year round.  The tinned stuff typically gets thrown at you as supermarket specials.  Foodtown lists 440g cans of Homebrand pinapple slices in syrup for $1.58 this week.

Well, this just show how far we have come from a consumption perspective. Yesterday’s delicacy fit for Royalty and scarce for the rest of us has become today’s commodity.  It was not that long ago, 20 years or so, that all one could get in New Zealand were Queensland pineapple.  These used to sell for between $6.99 –  $8.99 at retail and buying one of these was akin to playing Russian roulette.  One did not know what one was going to get until one cut the fruit open.  Too often, the fruit was just about black and of very poor quality.  Marketers and retailers then started to make use of technology. Pineapple were peeled, cored and packed in transparent vacuum pouches in Australia and then airfreighted to New Zealand.  The price went up but at least consumers could buy the pouched fruit  and be certain that the product was fit for consumption.  The minute Dole pineapples from the Philippines became available in New Zealand, the Australian product in both packaged and natural form disappeared over night and our produce departments have never been the same since.  But that is a different story which will need to wait for another day.

And who gave the Queen pineapples in 1947 ?  It was Portugal, which not only had remained neutral in WWII but also had and still has control of the Azores, a group of islands where just about anything grows.  Given the state of the Portuguese economy, one does wonder what this year’s gift might be…

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