As the Enlightenment period made the rich richer, the landed aristocracy began to engage in a frenzy of new hobbies, including gambling, boozing, and time-consuming, expensive pineapple cultivation. Pineries needed care around the clock, custom-built greenhouses, and mountains of coal to keep the temperatures high. The fruit took three to four years to bloom. The cost of rearing each one was equivalent to eight thousand dollars in today’s money. The sheer expense meant it was considered wasteful to eat them, and they remained, as during Charles II’s reign, dinnertime ornaments. A pineapple would be passed from party to party until it began to rot, and the maids who transported the pineapples placed themselves in mortal danger should they be accosted by thieves. For those who did not have the funds to grow their own, a bevy of pineapple-rental shops sprung up.
…wait for it…
By the 1770s, it had entered the lexicon as a commendation. “A pineapple of the finest flavour” was a phrase used for anything that was the best of the best. (For instance: “My birthday party was a pineapple of the finest flavour.”) In Sheridan’s 1775 play The Rivals, a character compliments another by pronouncing, “He is the very pineapple of politeness.”
“A pineapple of the finest flavour!” Please join me helping usher this phrase — this most pineapple of phrases, if I may — back into general usage.