For some reason there have been pineapples in the produce section of our little desert superstore. They called to me last week from their little plastic crates, and on impulse I found one that smelled just right and put it in my cart. Its rough skin felt like the handshake of an old friend in my grasp.
When it was time to cut the fruit open, I stood barefoot on my kitchen tiles, my belly pressed against the counter, knife in hand. The first slice released the sharp, pungent, sweet smell of the fruit and I was instantly transported back through time and space.
During the pineapple season on Guadalcanal, the Honiara market undergoes a transformation. Usually the red, spit-stained walkways reek of spoiling, over ripe fruit, the ocean's catch of the day, and hundreds of sweaty, poorly washed bodies. The sun bakes up this teaming mix of goods and humanity, making the stench palpable from the street.
Pineapple season, however, is different. For a few weeks every year, each mat is piled with a bumper crop of the prickly fruit. Warmed by the sun, the fruits release their spicy sweet smell into the air and the whole world smells like pineapple. The scent lays so heavily that everything around you seems to turn golden, just because of its bright influence. Pineapple paints the world.
Mom would come home with her van piled high and fragrant. Ten for $2, fifteen for $3. She'd slice it up and freeze it, and for weeks afterwards we'd snack on cold little slices of sunshine. She'd blend it up into smoothies, or dehydrate it and save it for our morning granola out on Luaniua. My favorite way to eat pineapple, however, was straight from the cutting board.
I'd snag a couple wet, sticky slices and take myself out to the front veranda. Our house in Honiara perched on the spine of the first big hill that rose off of the harbor. Balanced on the railing, my toes swinging into nothing, I would slowly eat my snack. Always save the center for last. Nibble down around the soft outer flesh that pans it like the sun's rays, the juice trickling down my chin. My nose filled with the spicy sweetness of the pineapple and the underlying fragrance of frangipani blossoms drifting over from my left. To my right, softly waving fronds framed the view down to the sea and the islands beyond.
This was bliss.