Pineapples and Celery – how rich people used to show off their wealth


A stack of pancakes ladened with syrup, a frothy latte posed next to a white MacBook, a deep pan pizza oozing with cheese.

Instagram has made “food porn” – images that portray food in an appetising or aesthetically appealing way – commonplace.

Food is now the most photographed subject on the platform, and #food, #foodporn, #instafood and #yummy are all among the most popular hashtags.

In itself, this isn’t new. People have always found ways to use food to showcase their likes, desires and status.

In the UK, two prime examples of this are the pineapple and celery.

King Pine

The pineapple has always been associated with prestige and luxury due to its exotic appearance.

It first appeared in Britain in 1668, gaining notoriety when Charles II used it as part of a public relations opportunity.

The king christened the pineapple “King Pine” and even commissioned a painting of himself being presented by his royal gardener: an early form of the food selfie.

By the Georgian era, the first pineapples were being cultivated in Britain.

An expensive luxury

By the turn of the 20th century, celery was present on the menus of most hotels and restaurants in Britain.

It also featured as the main ingredient of recipes in cookbooks, often in unique and now forgotten ways, such as au velouté (in a light gravy), à la Espagniole (in a rich demi-glace) and au gratin (sprinkled with breadcrumbs).

Celery was even served in first-class cabins on the Titanic.

As cultivation methods improved, celery became an everyman’s item, forcing the upper classes to look once again for a new food luxury.

Today, celery is almost universally despised, topping recent polls in Britain, the US and Japan for the least liked food.

But it’s clear that the Victorians adored it, as the Georgians did the pineapple.


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