This is neither the time nor the place to go into the cultural history of the pineapple. Interesting though it would be to explore their role in ancient Paraguan society; to note their significance amongst Southern Brazilian tribes (several of which worshipped them as deities); or to chart their appearance in Europe in the early eighteenth century, where, as status symbols, they held a power equal to the clavichord or the eight-wheeled cart; fascinating as this would certainly be, my readers are nonetheless advised to seek this story elsewhere. For I am fit to pursue other avenues; to wander down different roads; to dive into less regular pools.
Pineapples themselves are wonderfully intriguing objects. Visually stunning, they also combine magnificent textures: the tortoise-shell-like skin, the sleek sharp fronds and soft, yielding centre, hardening to a stony core. They are harsh fruits, in many ways, but also playful. I can for instance think of few better ways of spending a rainy day than chopping the top off a pineapple and balancing it on your head like a hat. People are known to have fun with pumpkins – but to my mind, at least, nothing beats the fun one can have with a pineapple.
And yet, like I said, they can be harsh fruits. One can get on the wrong side of a pineapple frond, with ghastly consequences. A full-grown pineapple tossed, with gusto, can injure almost anyone, whilst sharply cut slices of pineapple, put into the wrong hands, can cause serious harm. This is not something you can say of a mango, a passion fruit or a banana. Say what you like about watermelons (and some of you probably do), but I would much rather go to war armed with a pineapple. Step aside star fruit: this fight is for the pineapple tribe.
Leaving aside tropical fruit warfare for the moment, let’s dip our toes into quieter waters. Wonderful as pineapples are in their natural fully-armoured forms, I am rather more interested in what goes on inside those horny jackets of theirs. It is the juice that intrigues me. The sweet yellow juice, with its soft honeyed tang, its subtly sour, scintillatingly sugary aftertaste. Pineapple juice will never refresh one with the well-meaning directness of your orange or your apple: but it will ever beguile, mesmerize and, occasionally, even irritate its drinkers.
The restorative properties of pineapple juice are relatively well known. Mouths blighted by ulcers have long been known to be healed by the mixture of toxins and vitamins it contains. Cancer victims, I have heard, are amongst its greatest advocates – a worthy testament to the fruit’s kindest character.
The mind-altering qualities of the pineapple, on the other hand, are less well-researched. Pitzney (1993) says something about it – as does Fulcrome-Leap (2001) – but their words amount to little. Neither of them goes as far as Emmanuel Yile would like them to. But then no one but him has ever had quite so much faith in the brain-juggling, soul-shaking and, above all, life-changing qualities of pineapple juice. And why would they? For all the passion I have crammed into these paragraphs, history tells us that pineapples have their uses, many of them rather good, but none of them especially extraordinary. And whilst history is a dirty liar most of the time, it saves its greatest lies for the big stories: the stories that really matter. And the mildly-hallucinogenic properties of pineapples is not, all things considered, the biggest story you’ve ever heard, is it? Why would anyone suppress it? Why, in short, should we believe a man who thinks chooses to think differently, based on nothing more than gut feeling (and a handful of figures and charts that only a scientific genius could understand)?