Fresh fruit is known for its flavor. Because of that, it really shouldn’t surprise us when fruit ends up in unexpected places—avocados with eggs and toast, prickly pear sodas, and coconut everything. But perhaps no fruit’s culinary function generates more excitement or hostility than the exotic, prickly pineapple. The acceptability of the Hawaiian pizza is an age-old debate, but recently the pineapple has ventured into taste realms that make a ham and fruit pizza seem downright pedestrian. With International Pineapple Day right around the corner (June 27th) the Australian food chain Mad Mex rolled out a pineapple burrito, and responses are nothing if not passionate.
Celebrate International Pineapple Day with a…Burrito?
For a limited time during the summer, Mad Mex customers can add pineapple to any main meal for free. The company also sponsored giveaway promotions for any customers willing to debate the acceptability of the pineapple in Mexican cuisine on their Facebook page. Opinions were swiftly delivered. I’ll let you venture in the weeds of that debate on your own. However, dissent aside, Mad Mex claims the inclusion of pineapple on the menu was in response to a customer survey following April’s National Burrito Day in which customers were asked what ingredient they would like to see included in the restaurants’ burritos. According to the chain, pineapple was the overwhelming response. Mad Mex CEO Clovis Young says he anticipated pushback but expected excitement to drown out the faux outrage. “Whilst some will call it sacrilege, we know there are a lot of pineapple fans out there,” says Young. “Some of them live in secret, and they’ve been waiting a long time for this day to come.”
While the language of sacrilege and secrets may be a touch dramatic for a burrito topping, from an industry standpoint, Mad Mex’s International Pineapple Day special is just the latest iteration of a worldwide craze. In recent years, pineapple has overtaken the avocado as the United Kingdom’s fastest growing fruit in 2017, become a staple ingredient in brewing tepache and tropical IPAs (at the Craft Brewer’s Conference, 2018 was dubbed “the year of the pineapple in beer and cider”), and even served as the source material behind vegan leather alternative, Piñatex.
The growing popularity of the pineapple has also extended beyond the kitchen. The Independent’s Olivia Blair recently answered the query “Why Does Every Millennial Seem to Have a Gold Pineapple in Their Home?” Blair suggests the reason gold pineapples have popped up everywhere from Instagram feeds to the walls of Urban Outfitters is because they carry a sophisticated mystique that is financially attainable for thrifty Millennials. Gilded pineapple designs “have a bit of a glamorous and expensive feel to them even though they aren’t necessarily expensive items,” weighed in Martin Holland, recent winner of the BBC’s “Great Interior Design Challenge.” However, if you ask tepache brewer Nat West, he’ll tell you the cultural pineapple craze can be traced back to the exceptional quality of the MD-2 pineapple and its arrival in international markets. “If you draw a correlation between the number of people who have pineapple tattoos and the time that they got them, it will line up almost perfectly with the introduction of MD-2 pineapple,” West told me earlier this year.
Whether you’re eager to sink your teeth into a pineapple burrito or firmly recognize this as sacrilege in Mexican cuisine, one thing is certain—as the world celebrates International Pineapple Day, pineapple producers are happy to let culinary debates rage. So long as consumers keep snapping up the spiky fruit in record numbers, no press is bad press.