Pineapple. Ironically, it’s neither pine nor apple. But one thing is certain: it is delicious. Even its ancient name, nana, means “excellent fruit.”
It’s also ironic that this fruit, which is iconic of Hawaii, didn’t originate in Hawaii, but in South America.
So what is the real deal with pineapples and Hawaii? On the mainland United States, movies and TV shows like 50 First Dates and Psych immortalize the pineapple as an island fruit. The truth is, much of the Hawaiian pineapple hype can be attributed to James Dole, the “Pineapple King,” who started growing pineapples in Hawaii in the early 1900s and eventually had up to 200,000 acres of pineapple plants, along with canning and distribution facilities. At one point, Dole produced 75 percent of the world’s pineapples. Today, only about 10 percent of the world’s pineapple crop is grown in Hawaii.
And speaking of irony, although pineapple is used as a topping for Hawaiian pizzas and Hawaiian haystacks, these dishes—like the pineapple itself—did not originate in Hawaii. The most widely accepted theories about Hawaiian pizza’s origins suggest that it was created in either Canada or Germany. And Hawaiian haystacks are mostly popular in the western United States.
So what do Hawaiians think of this fruit that has come to be linked almost universally with them? Even though pineapples are not native to Hawaii, they are still often part of Hawaiian social gatherings. Mitch Gleed, who was born and raised in Hawaii, says he loves pineapple. “We ate it all the time. And now every time I go home I want a fresh pineapple. Especially one of the white [sugar] pineapples.”
Monica Patterson, who also grew up in Hawaii, agrees that pineapple is present at most social functions and parties. Of course, food in general is important in the Hawaiian social scene. “Food is everything,” she says. “We like lots of food and lots of people. Eating together is just happy and inclusive.”
So whether you’re looking to add some island flair or just want that tropical, delicious flavor of paradise, go ahead and get some friends together for a good time and have your own Hawaiian luau. And definitely don’t forget the pineapple because, after all, it is one “excellent fruit.”
Want to try a Hawaiian haystack? Check out the following recipe:
4 cups cooked rice
1 can (3 oz.) chow mein noodles
2 (10.5 oz. each) cans cream of chicken soup
1 cup chicken broth
2 cups cooked chicken, diced
Toppings (use as many as desired):
3 medium tomatoes, diced
1 cup celery, chopped
1 (20 oz.) can pineapple chunks, drained
1 (8 oz.) can water chestnuts, slivered
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup coconut
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
Soy sauce, to taste
- Combine soup, broth, and chicken in a medium saucepan.
- Stir and heat.
- Layer all the ingredients on your plate. Start with rice and chow mein noodles. Then add the chicken sauce and any other desired toppings.
Yield: 8 servings