To celebrate Chinese New Year, a friend shared a fresh pineapple. As I photographed the tasty remains, golden memories surfaced.
Cans of fruit cocktail mixed with jello. That’s my earliest memory of pineapple. My mom always poured the jello into a lovely crystal bowl. One of those bowls that only came out of the cabinet at special times of the year and which we children were forbidden to touch. It was usually strawberry or cherry jello and so the gold of the pineapple chunks would always stand out magnificently in contrast. My first fresh pineapple I tasted when an aunt from up north came to visit for a week or so down south. My younger brother and I watched enrapt as she took our father’s butcher knife and sliced open that fresh pineapple. She then scooped out the innards, coarsely chopped them and then mixed with some fresh strawberries, a mixture that she then put back into the basket of the pineapple rind. What a magical event for us.
Nearly two decades later, while traveling in Krabi, Thailand, I sat on a stone wall by the beach digging my toes into the sand. A wizened little lady came up to me. She carried a big stick and from the stick hung plastic bags filled with fresh cut pineapple. I’d been warned to be cautious of purchasing certain food items from street vendors. But I didn’t want to be rude. We couldn’t speak the same language but she made clear the price. Not much in American dollars. Plus she handed me a sample to taste. She had small fingers, work-worn, that reminded me of my mother’s. I bought a whole bag. Even if the fruit hadn’t been good (though it was), her smile would have been worth the purchase.