People Used To Rent And Display A Single Pineapple
If you'd never seen a pineapple before and someone showed it to you for the first time, you'd think that thing was weird. It looks like a rock from some alien planet or maybe a cyclops's egg. The earth, famous for cabbages and radishes and cow dung, isn't supposed to produce that sort of marvel naturally. So thought the people of Europe anyway when the fruit showed up from overseas, starting with one lone surviving pineapple carried by Columbus
Even today, most you proabably don't know what a pineapple plant looks like.
Over the next few centuries, imported pineapples were rare and exotic and therefore expensive. Very expensive -- a single pineapple cost like thousands of pounds. That made it an incredibly extravagant food, but also just having one, whether or not you ate it too, was something to brag about. And so the very rich would rent a pineapple, to walk around with or to display as a centerpiece at parties, protected by armed guards. The rental company would then take the pineapple back and rent it to someone else with too much money, then someone else, until the fruit rotted and fell apart.
In time, England realized they could grow their own pineapples instead of shipping it in from mythical islands. But at first, this didn't lower the price at all. Rather than industrial operations mass producing pineapples, people had to build their own hothouses and raise their pineapples over the course of many years, and this worked out even more expensive than buying the imported fruit, leaving each homegrown pineapple costing the 1600s equivalent of 10,000 pounds. King Charles II had himself painted with the first pineapple raised locally, a pineapple that, according to forensic horticultural historians, was not actually planted locally at all.
When he learned the truth, Charles had an apoplectic fit and died.
The price of pineapples did plummet, thanks to improved transportation methods including the rise of steamships. And the wealthy, who still had engraved pineapples in their mansions' woodwork, were horrified to see the fruit become as cheap as the potato and soon gobbled up by poor people. It would be like today seeing lobsters worth almost nothing and eaten by the absolute lowest in society ... which is actually how it used to be, before everyone realized chitinous sea horrors are delicious.
The Colors Red And Purple Were Super Valuable (Because They Were Made From Bug Guts)
People today take color for granted. You have a screen in front of you that can mix lights together and produce any color in existence, right, and because people can make any color, they often don't bother making any. That's why we have digital movies today where everything's a flat gray, or when people want to get really
classy, they make things black.
But, believe it or not, your phone can't produce the greatest colors out there. If you don't believe us, go to a museum and look at some oil paintings and stained glass -- or, well, just wait till the next phone comes out and claims to have colors so good that yours look like crap. So yeah, color may be underrated now. It's also possible, however, for people to go a little too nuts over color. What's your reaction upon seeing this little guy?
We only ask because three are crawling on your neck.
If you were the Spanish conquistadors, you would react with delight and greed. Because that bug is the cochineal, the source of a prized shade of red. The dye was used for European officers' robes, the clothing of kings (and a while afterward, for the first American flags). The red substance made from crushing the bugs became the Spanish's most valuable export from America, after silver. Pirates attacked their ships, tried to steal the expensive insects, and tried to breed them. That didn't turn out so well for them. The insects died outside of the Mexican climate, as did the cacti they fed on.