Monday, April 26, 2010


Greater Boston has a couple new vegetarian restaurants. The Pulse Cafe in Somerville has classic vegetarian fare from fresh ingredients, food of the sort that those of middle-age might remember making from what they bought at the food coop or Erewhon on Newbury Street. The Red Lentil in Watertown has a similar base, but a bolder and more global spice profile. A favorable review by Robert Nadeau, Boston's veteran restaurant critic, proposes the Gobi Manchurian as their signature appetizer. I'm not sure I agree. The cauliflower was indeed cooked just right, but I think the Indo-Chinese spices need to be more like at Indian Dhaba or Mysore Veggie (one of two South Indian restaurants next to an ISSO Swaminarayan mandir in Lowell — the one in the picture here, though I believe the text on that page refers to this one) on its Thursday Indo-Chinese night (even if the color does sometimes reach outside nature). For my favorite of Red Lentil's appetizers, I would choose the Sesame Encrusted Seitan Strips with miso horseradish dressing. Of another seitan dish, that Phoenix review mistakes its source, “Seitan with teff crêpes ($14.50) takes the meatiest-textured soy product and wraps it in a series of earthy teff injeras, which are somehow stiffened to near-taco crunchability.”

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Seitan is wheat gluten. (Update: The 4/30 print column included several readers' corrections and the online review linked to above now says “wheat gluten product.”) Broadly, it refers to chunks of gluten prepared in various ways. Specifically, to those that have been simmered in soy sauce.

The word was coined by George Ohsawa, who brought the macrobiotic diet to America, and either invented seitan or worked closely with Kiyoshi Mokutani, president of Marushima Shoyu, who did, to bring it to market in the late 1960s. The tan is the first part of 蛋白 tanpaku 'protein'. The sei might be a suffix as in 植物製 'plant-made' or 植物性 'plant-like' shokubutsu-sei, although as the OED points out it is unusual for Japanese words to be invented that way. So it is also claimed to be from sei 'to be; become' (成?), with a resultant sense of 'right protein substitute' (see record 557 in William Shurtleff's Soyinfo Center here). In Japanese, the word is still used only in the macrobiotic context, and written as セイタン.

The earliest quotation in the OED is from The Art of Just Cooking (1974) by George's wife Lima, in a recipe (p. 85) for making seitan by simmering wheat gluten in shoyu seasoned with ginger for a few hours. The chapter in which it appears is titled, “Kofu: Wheat Gluten.” 烤麩 kōfu (kaofu) is Shanghai-style wheat gluten. 麩 fu alone is the normal Japanese word for wheat gluten, the two main types being 生麩 nama-fu, raw gluten used in Buddhist temple cuisine (精進料理 shōjin ryōri: mentioned before in the Iron Chef post; or see Kajitsu, a Michelin-starred restaurant in New York) and  焼き麩 yaki-fu, grilled or dried gluten used in soups or simmered dishes or on salads.

ame can refer to a traditional Japanese candy made from wheat-gluten, inflated like a balloon and formed into animal shapes (see here and here; illustrated here and here). Issa wrote a haiku:


ume sake ya ame no uguisu kuchi wo aku

plum blossoms--
the candy nightingale
opens his mouth

(I don't know a lot more about the tradition, but I wonder whether the 笛 fue 'flute; pipe' in some of his other candy poems might refer to the reed used to blow-up the gluten, rather than a musical instrument meant to attract customers.)

In Chinese, prepared wheat gluten is 麵筋 mian4jin1 (Cantonese min6gan1; simplified 面筋; literally 'noodle tendon'), used, along with bean curd and bean curd skin, to make Buddhist vegetarian mock meats of various textures. The earliest surviving occurrence of the word is in the Dream Pool Essays:

凡鐵之有鋼者,如麵中有筋,濯盡柔麵,則麵筋乃見。(chap. 3, item 56)

fan2 tie3 zhi1 you3 gang1zhe3, ru2 mian4 zhong1 you3 jin1, zhuo2 jin4 rou2 mian4, ze2 mian4jin1 nai3 jian4.

Steel is to iron as mien chin (gluten) is to mien (flour). It is only after thoroughly washing the dough that gluten is revealed. (tr. Needham)

fu1 (simplified 麸; 麥 mai4 'wheat' with a phonetic 夫 fu1) originally meant 'bran', as it still does, but for a time was also 'gluten', hence as in Japanese. The Song Dynasty Taoist 白玉蟾 Bai2 Yu4 Chan2 (born 葛長庚 Ge3 Chang2 Geng1; see further bio and photo album here) wrote the following poem (quoted, for example, on this page on the history of Chinese wheat gluten):


nen4fu3 sui1 yun2 mei3, fu1jin1 zui4 qing1 chun2.

Although soft bean curd is said to be beautiful, wheat gluten is the cleanest and purest.

As far as I know, Boston no longer has a restaurant serving this sort of Chinese Buddhist cuisine (the closest is the Vietnamese version at Grasshopper). But New York has several, including the wonderfully-named House of Vegetarian.

Update: The warm weather specials menu at JǒJǒ TaiPei (久久台北) in Allston Village has a number of cold dishes, including Braised (“Red-Cooked”) Wheat Gluten 紅燒烤麩 hong2shao1 kao3fu1, which it translates as “Roasted Bean Curd Pie,” a translation made even more interesting by its apparent uniqueness on the Web — up until now.

Slightly earlier than Lima Ohsawa's book was The Health Food Dictionary with Recipes (1973), with the rather confusing entry (p. 153):

Seitan is made from the pulp left over from the preparation of tamari soy sauce. It is dried in jerkylike strips that are high in protein and particularly good in soups.

Which certainly sounds as though it's made from soy beans, even if we allow that this was a time when tamari meant soy sauce with wheat in English (due again to Ohsawa; etymologically 溜まり 'collected things', but just written phonetically たまり), what is now more often called shoyu (due to Shurtleff's efforts; 醤油). I admit that I do not actually know what happens to the residue after the moromi (醪) has finished fermenting and the soy sauce (and soy oil) have been filtered out, but it does not become wheat. It is true that early seitan was much more like jerky, and much saltier. (See Soyinfo Center record 11 here.)

The earliest reference to seitan that I have also puts it in with soy. Cooking Good Food (circa 1969) says (p. 6):

Seitan or “Protein X” is made from the same ingredients as the above condiments. A slightly different process produces a strong jerky which, when boiled or sauteed, resembles beef in appearance and taste. It is very good in soups.

“The above” being tamari, miso, and morromi [sic], together with tofu the products of the soybean, which “has been called the ‘Vegetable Cow’ of the Orient.” The booklet does not list an author. It is published by Order of the Universe Publications, which put out a newsletter of the same name promoting the teachings of Michio Kushi (issue one scan available here). Their address, Box 203, Prudential Center Station, Boston, was just a couple blocks from Erewhon: see here for a summary of Erewhon's history. The Soyinfo center record (1470 here) says that the author was its editor, Jim Ledbetter, and confirms it as the earliest occurrence of the word in their (extensive) records. The book is also notable for being listed in the appendix, “Other Books Worth Stealing,” to Steal This Book, with the annotation, “Eastern recipes and ways of preparing different foods.” Right after it is another from the same publisher, Cooking with Grains and Vegetables Plus, “Mystical, health food freaks will dig this book.” The plus being the revised Boston edition of the Los Angeles edition, which Erewhon distributed.

In the West, credit for the discovery, or at least scientific isolation, of wheat gluten usually goes to Iacopo Bartolomeo Beccari. The secretary of the Institute of Science of Bologna reported his washing away the starch to leave the gluten (done around 1728, written up in 1745):

Res eſt parvi laboris. Farina ſumitur ex optimo tritico, modice trita, ne cribrum furfures ſubeant; oportet enim ab his eſſe quam expurgatiſſimam, ut omnis miſturæ tollatur ſuſpicio. Tum aquæ puriſſimæ permiſcetur, ac ſubigitur. Quod reliquum eſt operis, lotura abſolvit. Aqua enim partes omnes, quaſcumque poteſt ſolvere, ſecum avehit; alias intactas relinquit.

Porro hæ, quas aqua relinquit, contrectatæ manibus, preſſæque ſub aqua relique, paullatim in maſſam coguntur mollem, & ſupra, quam credi poteſt, tenacem: egregium glutinis genus, & ad opificia multa aptiſſimum; in quo illud notatu dignum eſt, quod aquæ permiſceri ſe amplius non ſinit. Illæ aliæ, quas aqua ſecum avehit, aliquandiu innatant, & aquam lacteam reddunt; poſt paullatim deferuntur ad fundum, & ſubſidunt; nec admodum inter ſe cohærent; ſed quaſi pulvis vel leviſſimo concuſſu ſurſum redeunt. Nihil his affinius eſt amylo; vel potius ipſæ veriſſimum ſunt amylum. Atque hæc ſcilicet duo ſunt illa partium genera, quæ ſibi Beccarius propoſuit ad chymicum opus faciendum, quæque ut ſuis nominibus diſtingueret, glutinoſum alterum appellare ſolebat, alterum amylaceum. (De Bononiensi Scientiarum et Artium Instituto atque Academia Commentarii, II, i, p. 123.)

It is a thing of little labor. Flour is taken of the best wheat, moderately ground, the bran not passing through the sieve, for it is necessary that this be fully purged away, so that all traces of a mixture have been removed. Then it is mixed with pure water and kneaded. What is left by this procedure, washing clarifies. Water carried off with itself all it is able to dissolve, the rest remains untouched.

After this, what the water leaves is worked in the hands, and pressed upon in the water that has stayed. Slowly it is drawn together in a doughy mass, and beyond what is possible to be believed, tenacious, a remarkable sort of glue, and suited to many uses; and what is especially worthy of note, it cannot any longer be mixed with water. The other particles, which water carries away with itself, for some time float and render the water milky; but after a while they are carried to the bottom and sink; nor in any way do they adhere to each other; but like powder they return upward on the lightest contact. Nothing is more like this than starch, or rather this truly is starch. And these are manifestly the two sorts of bodies which Beccari displayed through having done the work of a chemist and he distinguished them by their names, one being appropriately called glutinous and the other amylaceous. (tr. Beach)

There were earlier partial efforts, of course. Leeuwenhoek's microscopes were sufficient to distinguish gluten from starch in wheat flour. But he did not fully understand what he saw, just as he did not recognize yeast in beer for what it was. In both cases, everything was just more globuli farinarii. (See, for instance, Raspail here and here.) Francesco Grimaldi, in his De Lumine (1665), described (p. 47; I cannot figure out how to deep link to that site), “glutino … ex farina” 'glue from wheat' from which “remanet ipſum glutinum exſiccatum, durum, ac inflexibile:” 'the dry glue itself remains, hard and inflexible'. In the provocatively titled “Jacopo Bartolomeo Beccari n'a pas découvert le gluten,” Roberto Savelli not only assigns priority to Grimaldi, but supposes, “La découverte du gluten et de sa préparation est presque certainement une découverte faite par hasard en cuisine, par quelque bonne grosse ménagère bolonaise, et divulguée comme un objet de curiosité.” 'The discovery of gluten and its preparation is almost certainly a discovery made by accident in the kitchen, by some nice fat Bolognese housewife, and disclosed as an object of curiosity.'

Gluten is composed of a pair of proteins: gliadin, which is somewhat soluble in alcohol, and glutenin, which is not. Long polymer chains of glutenin, unkinked by kneading, are made viscous and extensible by the smaller gliadin. The beginning of working this out was by Heinrich Einhof, who called (“Chemische Analyse des Roggens,” 1805) the soluble part Kleber 'glue' and the remainder Pfanzenschleim 'plant-mucus'. Gioacchino Taddei called them (“Ricerche sul glutine di frumento,” 1819, also earlier in the same volume) gloiodina and zimoma, that is, gliadin and zymome (< γλοιώδης 'glutinous' / γλία 'glue' and ζύμωμα 'fermented mixture'). Berzelius, who coined protein to describe the common nourishing substance of plants and animals, called the soluble part mucin. Hilaire Rouelle made the idea even more explicit (“Observation sur les Fécules”), calling gluten, “matiere glutineuse ou végéto-animale” 'glutinous or vegeto-animal substance'. In addition to wheat, and what makes it rise (wheat gluten being just plastic enough to contain the carbon dioxide and just elastic enough to stretch with it), these researchers were as much concerned with fermentation in general. Rouelle and Giovanni Fabbroni proposed that alcohol was actually produced by distillation.

For more of this, Google Books is full of late Victorian studies (superseded for their chemistry, but more complete on history), such as “The Proteids of Wheat”, “The Chemistry of Wheat Gluten” or The Vegetable Proteins. One last name will link back from the history of biochemistry to the main topics of this blog. Gliadin was called glutin by Nicolas de Saussure (“De la formation du sucre dans la germination du froment”), the grandfather of Ferdinand de Saussure.

By the end of the 19th century, wheat gluten was being produced commercially (sometimes as a bi-product of wheat starch production, as described here). It was sold as food suitable for diabetics and more generally the aged and infirm. And under names like Dr. Johnson's Glutine or, from New York's Health Food Company, White Wheat Gluten. And as a general cure-all. In London, there was Mr. Bullock's Semola. Here in Boston, one could buy Pure Vegetable Gluten from the well-established apothecary Theodore Metcalf Co. (profile; obituary; some merchandise) at 39 Tremont St. (exterior; interior; this was the next block up from the Boston Museum and the original location of the Mass. Historical Society, who have preserved a copy of his catalog).

It was also sold as a meat substitute for the growing number of vegetarians, and in particular Adventists. John Harvey Kellogg (see the breakfast cereal post) sold gluten meal (somewhat like what is called “vital wheat gluten” today) and held a patent for a preparation of wheat gluten and peanuts, which he sold as Protose.

And these continued to be made right through the appearance of macrobiotics and seitan. For example, The Fine Art of Cooking, an Adventist cookbook from 1941, has a recipe calling for canned Gluten Steak to be simmered in Sovex (soy sauce and brewers yeast: see the glossary post).

The book Cooking with Seitan (1987), by Barbara and Leonard Jacobs, and an article with the same title  in 1985 in the East-West Journal, which the Jacobs published, says the following, which has then been repeated by later sources:

Seitan is a food with a relatively long history. Although not widely known in the West, it was traditionally eaten in China, Korea, Russia, the Middle East, and probably many other countries that grew wheat.

(It appears on the back cover of the later edition in Google Books.) This makes sense, like Prof. Savelli's Bolognese housewife. But I do not myself know of any traditional Russian or Middle-Eastern wheat gluten dishes. Perhaps some reader does: please leave a comment if so.

Interestingly, the last time we were at Red Lentil, flyers had appeared on all the tables in support of the Chef  to Plate gluten intolerance awareness campaign, since they have plenty of gluten-free offerings. Conversely, for vegetarians with soy allergies, wheat gluten is often proposed as an alternative protein source. Unfortunately, this mostly only works if one makes it oneself, since seitan and other prepared forms use soy. The can of mock abalone we have was apparently made by simmering in soy sauce, then frying in soybean oil, then seasoning with more soy sauce.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Bhut Jolokia

It was recently time to order to some more Brother Bru-Bru's hot sauce, which is my preferred condiment for home fries and Röschti. Hot sauces are fairly shelf stable, so we like to stock up, which also saves on shipping. Furthermore, boutique sauces come and go: we are down to our last bottle of Satan's Revenge, an Indonesian-style sauce which I like on zucchini sticks, but which hasn't been produced in several years (it is still shown in the web site photo).

And there is always something new to try. For a while, the new hotness (sorry) was Red Savina peppers. We still have a bottle of Melinda's version. Now it is Bhut Jolokia and we got the Melinda's, which is good on a grilled portabello mushroom, and the Dave's Gourmet, which I've yet to try, since I'm waiting for the bottle of Dave's Insanity, which I put on pumpkin kibbeh, to be finished. As one might imagine, these personal pairings help to justify a larder full of hot sauces.

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Though that Wikipedia page has some dead news links, it does a reasonable job of summarizing the “new” world's hottest peppers: a group of related hybrids of mostly C. chinense with some C. frutescens genetic material, from the area around Assam, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Manipur and Nagaland. More comprehensive are Dave DeWitt's and Gernot Katzer's pages.

Of particular interest are the names and their associated problems. Bhut-jolokia is sometimes glossed as 'ghost pepper', as though it were ভুত-জলকীয়া, when in fact it is 'Bhotiya (Bhutanese) pepper', that is, ভোট-জলকীয়া. Similarly, Naga-jolokia is claimed as 'serpent pepper' নাগ-, rather than 'Naga (that is, related to the Nagas or Nagalim) pepper' নগা-. In a stricter transliteration scheme, like the one used by the Library of Congress, the differences would be clearer: bhut-jalakīyā, vs. bhoṭ- and nāga- vs. nagā-. Though that may not be the whole story, since the other forms do occur in reliable sources like a user-contributed dictionary or an academic promotion. Nor are all the actual names benign: bih-jolokia is indeed 'poison pepper', বিহ-জলকীয়া. One of the names in Nagaland (though it isn't clear in what language(s) — perhaps Nagamese creole) is 'king of peppers', राज-मिरंच rāja-mirca.

This recent favor in the West was picked up and encouraged by the Assam and Manipur news and television reporting from Nagaland (video starts playing right away). And so discussion in some blogs helps to confirm and clarify the identifications in Assamese or Naga cuisine. And to offer some additional names like Sap Hmarcha and Sap Malta. Or other related varieties like U Morok. (Hmarcha and morok মরোক / ꯃꯔꯣꯀ are clearly 'chili pepper' and so presumably is malta; sap might be 'snake', or perhaps that's a coincidence. U is apparently 'tree'; that variety is eaten with some kind of water lily seed.)

Still, Katzer's spice page raises the interesting question of just how old this super-hot pepper is in its native land. Here again, transliteration inconsistencies make searching somewhat less efficient. A Victorian report uses jálika. But the most common in the early 20th century seems to be jalakia. A report from just after independence lists some specific hot varieties, Surjamukhi Jalakia (সূৰ্য্যমুখী-জলকীয়া 'sunflower pepper') and Kharika Jalakia (খৰিক-জলকীয়া 'long slender stick pepper', still known as Khorika Jolokia), but they don't seem to match. However, A Dictionary in Assamese and English (1867) , which Wikipedia (s.v.) says was the first Assamese dictionary, has this entry (p. 439):

ভোটমৰিচ, s. এবিখ সকত জলকীয়া, a species of large red pepper.

Much as I would like to believe that bhût-morich then is the same as bhût-jolokia now, there really isn't anything remarkable about peppers from Bhutan in Assam, nor about red peppers, and large is relative. Now, it is true that C. chinense violate the ordinary hot pepper rule from C. frutescens like bird peppers or Thai chilis, that smaller is hotter. So there isn't anything to suggest this isn't it, either.

In any case, it seems that these new hottest peppers are consistently over one million Scoville units. Only twenty years ago, when the hot pepper craze in the USA was already in full swing, a cookbook author is quoted in the New York Times as unable to even track down who Wilbur Scoville was, using then standard sources like the Library of Congress Authorities file. Now, in addition to those Wikipedia entries, it is easy to search pharmaceutical literature of the time and find dozens of research papers on various topics authored by Scoville. One can even find, “A Note on Capsicums,” (note the plural, many sources cite it as singular), as published at the time of his presentation or the following year in the Journal of the American Pharmaceutical Association with some comments and so the standard citation, either in the digital version of that journal, if you have access to a research library, or, otherwise in a copy among the course materials for an MIT course on Kitchen Chemistry.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


With all the students around, Boston's Allston Village is chock-full of reasonably-priced restaurants: Burmese (with a separate vegetarian menu), vegan Vietnamese, vegan pizza, Egyptian falafel, Indian Chinese; plus old standbys like Tex-Mex, Korean-Japanese and checked-tablecloth Chianti-in-a-basket red-sauce Italian.

One of last year's new additions was Zaps, Polish street food. A zapiekanka is a baguette sliced in half lengthwise, topped with shredded cheddar and mushrooms, melted / toasted, and finished off with ketchup. It's more interesting tasting than that might sound.

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The name seems straightforward. zapiekać is the imperfective of zapiec 'to bake'. zapiekany is the passive participle; add the fairly productive -k(a) for resultative nouns and it's 'something baked'. There are, of course, various other forms of zapiekać in the only Polish cookbook I have. The za- prefix is a Slavic preposition with base meaning something like 'beyond'. piec is cognate with Russian печь 'oven' and so with PIE *pekʷ 'cook', whence also Greek πέσσω 'ripen; cook' and so peptic.

After we went there this weekend, I had another look around online and only then noticed that zapiekanka also means 'casserole'. There is a fairly clean split in English language sources between the two senses:

Street foodCasserole
  • Phrase books
  • Guide books
  • Dictionaries
  • Cookbooks

An Online Polish-English dictionary has both senses. An eponymous recipe collection seems to mostly be casseroles. But there are images and YouTube cooking videos of both sorts.

Not that this is all that surprising; both fit the base meaning perfectly. But now I am wondering whether there is a continuous semantic space (and what else is in it) and just how old this particular street food is. Hence this very short post. I would welcome informed comments.

Saturday, January 30, 2010


Other demands on my time have made posting here rather spotty, but I have always tried to keep notes on possible posts for when some time appears. One of the 17th century sources cited for peanuts (with a small diversion on sharks) was Jean-Baptiste du Tertre. In the same work, Histoire generales des Antilles habitees par les Francais (1667), he has a chapter on “l'Ananas, le Roy des fruits” 'pineapple, the king of fruits'.

Having recently finished The Pineapple: King of Fruits by Fran Beauman, I was reminded of this and of an analogy:

orange ∶ orangery ∷ pineapple ∶ ______

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orange ∶ orangery ∷ pineapple ∶ pinery

Beauman's book is still in print, though I am not sure there is an American edition yet. It covers the history of pineapples from Christopher Columbus to James Drummond Dole. (Note how one of the Wikipedia editor's uses of ginaca machine isn't capitalized. Beauman only mentions the engineer by name, but it's used several times without even machine in Gary Y. Okihiro's Pineapple Culture, a book that uses pineapple as the common thread for the story of race and empire in the tropics and Hawaii in particular. That is, at least in an appropriate context, ginaca has become a common noun.)

Beauman's book surveys pineapples in English literature from John Locke's taste of a pineapple to Wallace Stevens' academic piece “Someone Puts a Pineapple Together” (snippet only). (Though a quotation from the Wake cataloguing Shem's lowly preference for canned foods is somewhat turned around by leaving out the botulism part.)

A major theme of the book is the role of pineapple in the emergent English (and to a lesser extent American) consumer culture. And the now mostly forgotten mania for growing pineapples in hothouses in Northern Europe.

Beauman wrote shorter pieces on the pineapple for Petits Propos Culinaires (73) before and Cabinet (Fruits) after. The former covered the associations from the start as the finest of fruit and possible causes (including the Golden Mean and Fibonacci series) and the latter the Dunmore Pineapple and aristocratic cultivation efforts.

Consequently, this post will more easily stay (mostly) to the main focus of this blog.

The word for 'pineapple' in most languages is something like ananas. This comes from the Tupi-Guarani name for the fruit, na´na, which I have seen glossed variously as 'fragrant' and 'excellent'. (Some sources, such as Skeat, also claim that nana is the plant and anana the fruit.)

The word is first reported by André Thevet, who writes (Singularitez de la France antarctique, 1558, pp. 89-90):

Le fruit duquel plus cõmunemẽt ils vſent en leurs maladies, eſt nommé Nana, gros comme vne moyenne citrouille, fait tout autour cõme vne pomme de pin, anſi que pourrez voir par la preſente figure. Ce fruit deuient iaune en maturité, lequel eſt merueilleuſement excellent, tant pour ſa douceur que ſaueur, autant amoureuſe que fin ſucre, & plus.

The fruit which they most commonly use for their illnesses is named nana, as big as a medium pumpkin, formed overall like a pinecone, as you can see from the present figure. This fruit turns yellow when ripe; it is marvelously excellent, as much for the sweetness as the taste, as lovely as fine sugar, and more so.

And in the form ananas by Jean de Léry's Histoire d'un voyage faict en la terre du Brésil:

… Premierement la plante qui produit le fruict nommé par les Sauuages Ananas eſt de figure ſemblable aux glaieuls, & encores, ayant les fueilles vn peu courbees & canelees tout alentour, plus aprochãtes de celles d'Aloes. Elle croiſt auſsi non ſeulement emmoncelee comme vn grand Chardon, mais auſsi ſon fruict:, qui eſt de la groſſeur d'vn moyen Melõ, & de façon comme les Pommes de Pin, ſans pendre ny pancher d'vn coſté ni d'autre, viẽt de la propre ſorte de nos Artichaux.

Ces Ananas au ſurplus, eſtans venus à leur maturité, ſont de couleur iaune azuré, & ont vne telle odeur de frarnboiſe, que non ſeulement en allant par les bois on les ſent de loin, mais auſſi quant à leur gouſt fondans en la bouche, & eſtans naturellement ſi doux qu'il ny a confitures de ce pays qui les ſurpaſſent, ie tiẽs que ceſt le plus excellẽt fruict de l'Amerique. … (1578 ed., p. 211)

… First, the plant that produces the fruit called by the savages ananas, has a form like that of a gladiolus, but with leaves slightly curved and hollowed all around, more like the aloe's. It grows compacted like a great thistle; its fruit, related to our artichoke, is as big as a medium-sized melon, and shaped like a pinecone, but does not hang or bend to one side or the other.

When these ananas have come to maturity, and are of an iridescent yellow, they have such a fragrance of raspberry that when you go through the woods [and other places where they grow], you can smell them from far off; and as for the taste, it melts in your mouth, and it is naturally so sweet that we have no jams that surpass them; I think it is the finest fruit in America. (Whatley, translating a slightly newer edition, such as this)

Interestingly, another Tupi-Guarani term for the fruit, ïu̯a-ka´ti 'fragrant fruit' (confirming de Léry's account), gives Portuguese abacaxi. (In Brazilian slang, both abacaxi and banana can mean 'mess; problem'.) Remarkably, though this word is presumed to date from the 18th century, it isn't found in print until 1833.

Other native names are given by Spanish explorer-conquerers (and Catholic missionaries). Oviedo gave some for Taíno in his Historia general y natural de las Indias:

Hay en esta Isla Española unos cardos, que cada uno dellos lleva una piña (ó mejor diçiendo alcarchopha), puesto que porque paresçe piña las llaman los cripstianos piñas, sin lo ser. Esta es una de las mas hermosas fructas que yo he visto en todo lo que del mundo he andado. … Dixe de suso que estas piñas son de diversos géneros y assí es verdad, en espeçial de tres maneras. A unas llaman yayama, á otras dic,en boniama; é á otras yayagua. (Lib. VII, Cap. xiv, pp. 280-283)

On this island of Hispaniola there are some thistles, each of which produces a pineapple (or, better said, an artichoke), because it looks like what Spaniards call a pinecone, yet without being one. This is one of the most beautiful fruits I have seen in all the world in which I have travelled. … I said above that these pineapples come in different species, and this is true, especially three kinds. Some are called yayama, others boniama, and others yayagua. (tr. Myers)

Francisco Hernández gives one for Nahuatl in his Plantas y Animales de la Nueva España (1615, here, then Ir a Imagen 345 de 429):

Esta peregrina planta, que los yndios llamã, matzatli, cuyo origen dizen ser del brasil, de adonde la traxeron, y de aqui se à communicado à las yslas, y aun à las yndias orientales, à donde le llaman, Ananas, y los Españoles que viuen en este nueuo mundo, Piña, por la semejança que este fruto tiene con las piñas, es vna planta que produze las ojas como las del lyrio, pero espinossa à modo de las del cardo, la rayz hebrossa y gruessa, la qual planta produze sola vna piña, rodeada de muchos pinpollos nacidos à la redonda y en la cumbre del dicho fruto, los quales quitados y sembrados cada vn pinpollo de por si, hechan luego muchas y nueuas rayzes, y nace otra piña en estremo, semejante à nuestras piñas como auemos dicho, rodeada de los mismos pinpollos, al principio sale la fruta bermeja, pero andando el tiempo quedando el pinpollo bermejeando, se pone la piña amarilla como rubia.

This wandering plant, which the Indians call matzatli, is said to originate from Brazil, from which they brought it, and from here it was spread to the island and even to the Eastern Indians, where they call it ananas; and the Spaniards who live in this New World call it piña, on account of the resemblance which this fruit has to pinecones; it is a plant which produces leaves like those of the lily, but spiny like those of a thistle; the roots are many-threaded and thick; each such plant produces a single pineapple, surrounded by many buds [suckers] born from around and on top of said fruit; when these are removed and each bud planted by itself, many new roots are formed, and another pineapple is born on the end, resembling our pinecones as I already said; it is surrounded by the same sort of buds; at first the fruit comes out red, the bud becoming reddish as time goes by, and then it gets as yellow as a blonde.

And his Rerum medicarum Novae Hispaniae thesaurus gave one of the earliest illustrations of a pineapple (1651 edition here, Imagen 349 de 1083).

Achupalla is given for Aymara by Ludovico Bertonio Vocabulario de la lengua aymara (1612, p. 168) and for Quechua by Diego González Holguín's Vocabulario de la lengua general de todo el Perú llamada lengua Qquichua o del inca (1608, p. 6). These are downloadable as huge PDF files from here and here, respectively; the former is also in Google Books. (It also gives chulu as the name of the plant.)

As pineapples spread, they were occasionally named after other existing fruit that they resembled. For instance, in Hawaiian, it is hala kahiki 'foreign Pandanus'. (Note that while Tahiti is the canonical foreign place in Polynesian, there is no indication that Kahiki is meant to be a proper noun to claim is that they come from there. Also cf. ʻuala kahiki 'potato', literally 'foreign sweet potato', like 洋山芋 yang2 shan1yü4 or มันฝรั่ง man farang.) In Sumba, pineapple is (or was) known as panda djawa 'Pandanus from Java'.

In Persian, Urdu, and Arabic, 'pineapple' is normally انناس ananās or اناناس anānās. But the Ain-i-Akbari says, “Pineapples are also called Kat'hal i Safarí, or the jackfruits for travels, because young plants, put into a vessel, may be taken on travels, and will yield fruits.” (Blochmann's translation, p. 68. I have not been able to locate the Persian text online — this is the second part; so is this, just collated differently — or at an accessible library. The same site has a translation of the later Tuzk-i-Jahangiri, which also mentions pineapples at the Mughal court coming from Portuguese ports.) On the claimed etymology of کتهل سفری kaṭhal-i-safarī, Hobson-Jobson says (s.v. ananas):

Abul Faẓl, in the Āīn, mentions that the fruit was also called kaṭhal-i-safarī, or 'travel jack-fruit,' “because young plants put into a vessel may be taken on travels and will yield fruits.” This seems a nonsensical pretext for the name, especially as another American fruit, the Guava, is sometimes known in Bengal as the Safarīām, or 'travel mango.' It has been suggested by one of the present writers that these cases may present an uncommon use of the word safarī in the sense of 'foreign' or 'outlandish,' just as Clusius says of the pine-apple in India, “peregrinus est hic fructus,” and as we begin this article by speaking of the ananas as having 'travelled' from its home in S. America. … The lamented Prof. Blochmann, however, in a note on this suggestion, would not admit the possibility of the use of safarī for 'foreign.' He called attention to the possible analogy of the Ar. safarjal for 'quince.' …

Many other Asian names are likewise derived from ananas, including Tamil அன்னாசி aṉṉāci and Burmese နာနတ် nanat. And Sub-Saharan Africa: so, Burton's Lake Regions (p. 35 of the JRGS report):

The mánánázi or pine-apple grows luxuriantly as far as three marches from the coast. It is never cultivated, nor have its qualities as a fibrous plant been discovered.

The enthusiastic reviews by Europeans given above are typical and more like that are easy to find. For instance, here is du Tertre, as mentioned in the introduction to the post:

Ie peux à treſ-juſte titre appeller l'Ananas, le Roy des fruits, parce qu'il eſt le plus beau, & le meilleur de tous ceux qui ſont ſur la terre. C'eſt ſans doute pour cette raiſon, que le Roy des Roys luy a mis une couronne ſur la teſte, qui eſt comme une marque eſſentielle de ſa Royauté, puis qu'à la cheute du père, il produit un ieune Roy qui luy ſuccede en toutes ſes admirables qualitez : … (p. 127)

I can quite rightly call the Pineapple the King of fruits, because it is the most beautiful, and the best of all those which are on earth. It is no doubt for this reason that the King of Kings has placed a cron on its head, as an essential mark of its royalty; then at the fall of the father, it produces a young King who succeeds him in all his admirable qualities.

A mystery among all these early accolades is one claimed for de Léry (see above). It is repeated by ordinarily reliable sources, such as Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World and Food by Waverley Root. And in Collins' Pineapple and Beauman's PPC essay (but not her book). Here is the version from Lindley's The Treasury of Botany (p. 60):

Three hundred years ago it was described by Jean de Lery, a Huguenot priest, as being of such excellence that the gods might luxuriate upon it, and that it should only be gathered by the hand of a Venus.

Which seems to be the source used by Sturtevant at least. It is not inconceivable that a Huguenot priest would make such an allusion. (Venus is not usually a gardener, though she says through Ovid that she picked some “golden apples” — whether these are oranges or quinces is another topic — from her island of Cyprus for Hippomenes to use to distract Atalanta.) But there does not seem to be any such passage in his published work. At least I have not found it in any of the French editions of the Histoire or the Latin translation. Versions even show up in French works, often in guillemets, but apparently as translations from Lindley's English. Before that, it appears in Floriculture Magazine (1840), where it's Jean de Leary. And the remaining sources are the works of Charles McIntosh: Book of the Garden (1855), The Orchard (1839), The Practical Gardener (1828). The earliest even says, “in the inflated style of those early times,” which certainly suggests that he found the quotation in an older source. If it were before 1716, there might be some mention in Lochner's extensive Commentatio de Ananasa sive nuce Pinea indica Vulgo Pinas (online). And nothing similar is in EEBO or ECCO. So I do not know where it came from (and would welcome suggestions).

Of course, the three most popular languages in the world are exceptions to the ananas rule. English pineapple, modeled after Spanish piña, is due to the resemblance of the fruit to a pinecone. Originally, pineapple in fact meant 'pinecone', as pijnappel still does in Dutch. So, a contemporary translation of Linschoten can be:

Ananas, van die Canarijns Ananasa geheeten; van die Brasilianen Nana, ende van anderen in Hispaniola, Iaiama; van die Spaengiaerden in Brasyl, Pinas, om eenighe ghelijckenisse die dese vrucht heeft met die Pijnappel; (here, p. 212 – 269 from the menu)

Ananas by the Canarijns called Ananaſa, by the Braſilians Nana, and by others in Hiſpaniola Iaiama: by the Spaniards in Braſilia Pinas, becauſe of a certain reſemblance which the fruite hath with the Pine apple. (Iohn Huighen van Linschoten. his discours of voyages into ye Easte & West Indies, 1598, p. 90)

Which almost always warrants a footnote in modern editions in either language. Some dialects of Spanish have ananá and English did have ananas for a time. It's in Johnson's dictionary, with a quotation from James Thomson's Seasons:

Witneſs, thou beſt Anâna, thou the pride
Of vegetable life, beyond whate'er
The poets imag'd in the golden age: (685-687)

Pineapple is naturally included in the great herbals and plant lists of the period when scientific botany was emerging, which therefore propose various classifications:

  • Clusius: Exoticorum libri decem (1605), Cap. XLIV, pp. 284-285, “De Ananas.”
  • C. Bauhin, Pinax (1623), Lib. X, Sect. vi, p. 384, “Carduus Brasilianus foliis Aloës.” 'Brazilian thistle with aloe leaves'
  • J. Bauhin, Historiae plantarum universalis (1650), T. 3, Lib. xxv, pp. 94-95, “Nana sive Strobilus Peruvianus.” 'Nana or Peruvian cone'
  • Lobel, Icones Stirpium (1581), p. 375, “Aizoi maioris ortu persimilis exotica planta.” 'exotic plant similar to a descendent of a large sempervivum (aloe?)'
  • John Parkinson, Theatrum Botanicum (1640), Vol. II, Chap. LXXXV, pp. 1626-1627, “Anana seu Pina.” He also adds a qualification to his praise:
    But this Pinas as I ſaid, ſurpaſſeth all other fruites of the Weſt Indies, for pleaſantneſſe and wholeſomeneſſe, ſo that many eate them abundantly, and thinke they cannot ſufficiently be ſatisfied with them, but the ſurfet of them is dangerous, even as it is uſuall of the beſt fruits :
  • Leonard Plukenet, Phytographia (1691), p. 29.
  • Hans Sloane, Catalogus Plantarum quae in Insula Jaimaica, p. 77-79.

Then, both books and pineapples were still relative rarities. But with the establishment of industrial printing and the progression of pineapple growing from mysterious failure to aristocratic folly to upper middle class hobby, the number of works giving detailed instructions for the construction of pineapple growing buildings and their use increased dramatically. And while these are now somewhat rare except for specialized booksellers and larger (and older) libraries, they are just the books that recent massive digitization efforts have done best on. Waves of improvements in transportation brought fresh imported pineapples, then canned, and fresh again. So this is mostly all forgotten, just like the words pinery and pine-stove. (Pine stove is a better search key than pinery, since the latter has several other meanings; for instance, the house in Germantown where Louisa May Alcott was born was called The Pinery on account of the trees surrounding it.)

Some examples (for books before 1906, there is this bibliography by Harold Hume of the University of Florida Agricultural Experiment Station):

The Wikipedia stub article on Pineapple pit, to which the Pinery disambiguation page points, looks to have been quickly thrown together from a single pamphlet. Some obvious potential improvements (I know, I could do it myself):

  • Add some synonyms, at least the ones that point to that page.
  • Pineries were originally developed in the Netherlands, not just the UK.
  • Most of the major developments were in Georgian times, not Victorian. In fact, the one that the article is based on is Georgian.
  • Many (though not this one, apparently) burn tanner's bark, not manure, or a mixture.
  • No mention is made Tim Smit, even though he already has a Wikipedia page and wrote a book on The Lost Gardens of Heligan giving the story of presenting the second modern pineapple grown there to the Queen.
  • There are a number of relevant books from the period online, Beauman's history of pineapples, and similar cultural histories of greenhouses.

And, of course, here is a cautionary note from the Dec. 29, 1787 number of a Thomas Monro's periodical Olla Podrida:

of Fathers who have beggared their Families to enjoy the Pleaſure of ſeeing Green-houſes and Pineries ariſe under their Inſpection;

Pineapples were grown in even more improbable places. Charles De Geer grew them on his Leufsta estate. Peter Ivanovich Shuvalov introduced them to fashionable parties in Russia and they were grown there by the time of Catherine the Great.

In his footnote to Eugene Onegin's ананасом золотым 'golden pineapple' (I. xvi.; the stanza inventories a luxurious dinner also including truffles and comet year wine — I think there was a bottle of comet brandy around here once), Nabokov supposes that, “everybody remembers the kindly lines in James Thomson's Summer (1727),” (see link above) and then quotes them anyway. He resumes, “of less repute is a short poem by William Cowper, The Pineapple and the Bee (1779)” (here), and then doesn't quote any of it, even though it's more perhaps more relevant, being concerned with whether some things should be reserved for those who are entitled to them. Beauman notes that despite this Cowper himself had a pinery. These kinds of decadent associations led to Mayakosky's slogan, “Ешь ананасы, рябчиков жуй, / день твой последний приходит, буржуй.” 'Eat your pineapples, chew your grouse; / Your last day is coming, bourgeois [louse].' Which in turn inspired Peter Sellars, while still a senior at Harvard, to include a giant pineapple in the A.R.T.'s first season production of The Inspector General. (I have not had any luck digging up a photo of that set; all their site has is this.)

The obsessive General Tilney in Northanger Abbey had a surprisingly productive (despite his fretting) pinery. The Bank Director in Dombey and Son had one too.

In praise of the pineapples raised by Otto von Münchhausen (see here), Leibniz wrote (Nouveaux essais sur l'entendement humain, Chap. IV, §. 11):

tous les voyageurs du monde ne nous auroient pû donner par leur relations ce que nous devons à un gentilhomme de ce pays, qui cultive avec ſucces des Ananas à trois lieues d' Hannovre preſque ſur le bord du Weſer & a trouvé le moyen de les multiplier en ſorte que nous les pourrons avoir peut-être un jour de notre crû auſſi copieuſement que les oranges de Portugal, quoiqu'il y auroit apparemment quelque déchet dans le goût.

all the travelers of the world would not have given us through their accounts what we owe to a gentleman of this country, who successfully grows pineapples three leagues from Hannover near the banks of the Weser and has found a means of multiplying them so that perhaps we shall have them one day of our own growth as abundantly as oranges from Portugal, though there will apparently be some loss in the taste.

In the meantime, pineapples had spread to tropical Asia, where they could grow naturally, and so were also becoming associated with the East.

In the chapter “Voltaire's Coconuts” in Ian Buruma's Anglomania (that title is used for the whole book in a UK edition; the proposal in the entry on Government is that one should try the English form, with its guaranteed liberties, everywhere, just as one should at least try to grow coconuts, native to India, in Bosnia and Serbia), the author relates that Voltaire tried to grow pineapples at Ferney. In the Philosophical Dictionary (that Wikipedia article badly needs some editing), s.v. Loix (Laws), Voltaire tells a story of some Jews of the time of Vespasian stranded on the island of Padrabranca in the Maldives (Pedra Branca is actually near Singapore). “… on y trouve les plus gros cocos & les meilleurs ananas du monde” 'there one finds the largest coconuts and the best pineapples in the world'. (Of course Voltaire probably knew that pineapples wouldn't have grown there back then. The story revolves around the refusal of a pious Essene to marry what might be the last Jewish women to preserve the race, on account of Mosaic Law; when the castaways move to a nearby populated island, where the law says that all strangers are automatically slaves, he refuses to believe there is such a law because it isn't in the Torah, but is made a slave anyway.)

In particular, pineapples became a common design element in Chinoiserie, as in the “Chinese” (or maybe “Indian”) garden pavilion in Veitshöchheim built for Prince Bishop Friedrich von Seinsheim by Ferdinand Dietz. (See Chinese Influence on European Garden Structures, pp. 183-184 and fig. 49. Its source hasn't been scanned that I can find. The other reference it gives is in JSTOR with a tiny photo. There is a Flickr photo but only in one size.) Or the several Beauvais Tapestries known as La Récolte des Ananas.

And, of course, this continues today. One can purchase reproductions of the tapestry and a decorating blogger was inspired by the Dunmore Pineapple to make her own interior-size folly.

In Chinese, 'pineapple' is 菠蘿 (simplified 菠萝) bo1luo2. Athanasius Kircher's China Illustrata (1667) says (p. 188; also in Gallica; the Stanford site appears to have rotted), “tanti & tam exquiſiti ſaporis, ut inter nobiliſſimos Indiæ ac Chinæ fructus primum facilè locum obtineat” 'such is the taste that the fruit easily holds first place among the nobles of India and China'. The baroque engraving on the facing page shows a farmer planting some while an ape eats one; only the first two characters of the name given there, Fam polo nie, are drawn in it. Kircher's source was the Polish Jesuit Michael Boym, whose Flora Sinensis (1656) has plates for 反波羅密 Fan•Po•Lo•Mie (fan1 bo1luo2mi4) 'pineapple' and 波羅密 Po•Lo•Mie (bo1luo2mi4) 'jackfruit' (I do not know how to deep link to that facsimile; the first is Plate G at position 34 and the second Plate L). That is, pineapple is 'foreign jackfruit' (like kaṭhal-i-safarī), more properly written with 番 fan1. As Bretschneider points out (Early European Researches into the Flora of China, p. 23), 波羅密 bo1luo2mi4 is apparently a transcription of Sanskrit पारमिता pāramitā 'transcendent; excellent'. That is certainly true in the Buddhist context, where the Six Perfections is 六波羅蜜 liu4 bo1luo2mi4. (It may be just a coincidence that a Tamil word for the jackfruit tree is பலா palā.) 菠蘿 bo1luo2 is today usually written with the grass radical 艸, just like 菠菜 bo1cai4 (covered here earlier). 菠萝蜜 bo1luo2mi4 is now written with the character 蜜 mi4 'honey', so that it appears to mean 'sweet pineapple'. I don't think I know enough to understand what this song (video starts right away) by a TV hostess from a couple years ago is about (if anything).

Another word for 'pineapple' is 鳳梨 feng4li2 'phoenix pear', I assume on account of its appearance.

My wife likes pineapple chunks for lunch, but I think most of the ones I eat are in Thai entrees. Thailand has been the world's largest producer of pineapples since 1975. I do not know the etymology of สับปะรด sapparot (I can only manage transparent ones and don't have access to an appropriate resource). They are mentioned there by Louis XIV's ambassador Simon de la Loubère, who was also a friend of Leibniz. The same work gave to Europe an Indian method of constructing odd-order magic squares; the rules for Chinese chess; and one of the earliest mentions of and translations from Pali. (The Google Books scan did not manage to get the alphabet table fold-outs; fortunately the Gallica one did.)

The common Vietnamese name for pineapple is trái thơm 'fragrant fruit' (like ïu̯aka´ti in Tupi) given in Flora Cochinchinensis (p. 237) as Tlái Thɔm.

If one of the current proposals for the addition of emoji to Unicode passes, the number of extra-linguistic one character foods will greatly increase, and in particular will then include pineapple.