We often hear it. We often speak. We often refer to it. I am, of course, talking about Pineapple.
In many ways, Pineapple is the new Rhubarb. Rhubarb's unique party trick was that if you cooked it in the form of a Rhubarb crumble, then ate too much of it, it would make your teeth soft and your tongue numb. That particular mantel has now been passed to the rather alien-shaped Pineapple. It's party piece is to skilfully segment the population into "yes-please" and "are-you-joking". The Pineapple attack on the Rhubarb, started in the 1970s. The migration from a mere canned product into something that can be cooked upside-down was a master stroke. Rhubarb, on the other hand, thought that its toxic leaves would be enough to stave off this upstart. It was, alas, not enough. The raging success of the Pineapple-pizza marketing ploy was the final blow. Not content with a mere success in overthrowing Rhubarb, Pineapple went in for the kill.
Some say that the promise was an everlasting supply of Pineapple, others speculate it was a promise to root out all the Rhubarb in the Country. We will never know. The year was 2017; the month was February; the place was the noble country of Iceland. As reported by Robin Pogrebin, in the New York Times, no less than the President of Iceland, Gudni Thorlacius Johannesson, stated; "... if I had the powers, I would pass a law banning pineapple on pizza ...".
This sparked an international out-cry and predictable outrage online, which forced the President to backtrack with this formal statement;
"I like pineapples, just not on pizza. I do not have the power to make laws which forbid people to put pineapples on their pizza. I am glad that I do not hold such power. Presidents should not have unlimited power. I would not want to hold this position if I could pass laws forbidding that which I don't like. I would not want to live in such a country. For pizzas, I recommend seafood."
The recommendation of seafood didn't help to conclude the matter.
Widely regarded as a master move on the Pineapple's front, this anti-news distilled the food-loving public into one camp or another.
Everyone was talking about Pineapple. Everyone had forgotten about Rhubarb. The fruit-flavoured bloody battle had reached its nasty conclusion. Pineapple was king.
Across the United Kingdom, unattended Rhubarb was left to fend for itself. It looked like there was no way back. Pineapple with its new-money, looked to have taken an unassailable lead.
It was not, however, the end of the matter.
You should never underestimate a vegetable with poisonous leaves. You should never ignore a vegetable that can be eaten with fruit.
As those vast unkept leaves shielded the core from the blazing sun, the pieces of a plan started to fall into place.
It was a long-game plan, that was so long, they sowed it back in the 16th century. So devious in its very nature, so vast in scale, as to be the stuff of future-legend.
For the Rhubarb, used throughout China for thousands of years, knew that as it gently moved outwards into medieval Arabia and then into Europe; it knew that such a time would come.
With as much speed as a root vegetable can muster, a left-field multi-purpose plan was put into place.
Masterful plans need a time and a place. The time was the early 16th century. The place was England. However, effective plans need partners. They need willing parties to, if necessary, lay down their lives. Rhubarb found such noble and willing folk. Noble of mind, but simple in stature;
"Jabber" and "Gibber".
Individual souls; the first talks quickly, the second mutters incoherently.
But Rhubarb needed to meld them into something new. Something that would stand the test of time.
It is unknown what the payment actually was, the details lost in the mists of time, but a deal was struck.
A magical word that sounded like it had existed forever. Hidden in an evolving English language. So instinctively understood, but which would require a whole paragraph to tightly define.
And there it sat, waiting. Listening for that moment. For that instruction from its master, Rhubarb.
Pineapple arrived soon after, ignorant and flamboyant. Rhubarb remained quiet.
It was a dangerous tactic. With Pineapple gaining traction in the 1820s; was the danger too much to bare? The flamboyant extravagance of Pineapple's move into the elite's households required a minor course correction from Rhubarb.
Transitioning from a vegetable into Pineapple's pudding world, corrected the course for Rhubarb.
As predicted, the response from Pineapple was as overly confident as its sharp leaves. The fatal error, so often made; rapid expansion. Now at an eye watering 28 million units per year, Pineapple had gone big!
Rhubarb had seen it coming. And when Pineapple had played the upside-down card, Rhubarb started its own final multi-decade play.
It knew Pineapple would pull ahead, although it isn't clear how Pineapple moved into the pizza scene. Some say that it was a deal done by Rhubarb in a dark alley with an American unnamed organisation. Whatever happened, it provided the nudge.
It was a needed nudge; a required distraction. A distraction from a tiny seed that Rhubarb planted in 1980.
It was to be a gamble. The events of 1969, looked hopeful. Just a year after the final act was put into play, the year of 1981 proved the timing was perfect.
No one had a clue, no one would could see it; Rhubarb was building its own momentum.
As Rhubarb had predicted, 2005 signalled that it was time to give Pineapple one last nudge.
The nudge needed to be in the limelight, for that limelight was getting brighter and more intense. Pizza was everywhere and Pineapple was always close by. Pineapple had also foolishly gained an emoji; greater fame.
In 2012, Rhubarb started secret negotiations with Iceland. Knowing that the 2008 financial crash, that Rhubarb had engineered, cost Iceland dearly. It knew they would be "pliable".
The year was set, 2017. Rhubarb needed a flash in the plan to finally blind Pineapple to what was really going on.
It happened; Rhubarb made its final play.
What was that final play? What was the culmination of a 400 year long plan?
Pineapple had reached its multi-million unit, internationally recognised, maximum exposure, high point. Rhubarb had made sure of that.
But what of Rhubarb?
Thousands of years ago, it was a poisonous plant. In the 16th century, it moved into Europe. Throughout the 18th & 19th century, this vegetable moved into the fruit pudding market. In 1969, the pre-internet started. In 1981, the Internet was born. In 2005, YouTube was born.
In 1980, Eric Sykes decided to make a short 28 minute film. In 2020, you can find it on YouTube; search for "Rhubarb, 1980".
When writing the script, Eric Sykes didn't notice that Rhubarb was his muse. You see, every single word in the entire script is the word "Rhubarb".
Rhubarb from poisonous plant, to medicine, to edible vegetable, to fruit pudding, to Comedy.
Comedy, you see, lives forever.
Pineapple? Yeah ... that's still just a piece of fruit.
I'm a carbon-unit who writes; a Carbon Writer. Life & culture are my default topics, mixed with a little English wit & sarcasm. Full of mostly true stories, I occasionally remember to write them down. Found in a crowd, or contemplating in a corner. Habit of talking to anyone. Author.
- Nigel Derbyshire