I’ve been living in Atlanta too long. I hardly ever see or hear of anyone having a pineapple sandwich anymore. Growing up in the Deep South, the pineapple sandwich was a staple in school lunch sacks, church picnics, and football games (cheaper than hot dogs). Your mama could use sliced pineapple or crushed. I usually opted for crushed if I wasn’t concerned about soggy bread or pineapple juice cascading down my elbows. The sooner you ate your crushed pineapple sandwich, the safer. However, if you’re going to start a food fight at the game, the soggier the better.
I hardly ever fail to ask people if they’ve had a pineapple sandwich when cuisine is being discussed. It never fails—“What? Are you out of your mind? I never heard of a pineapple sandwich. You can’t be serious.” I’ve learned to expect this reaction from non-Southerners, but I’m still amazed how many Southerners themselves were deprived of this regional delicacy. (I’m beginning to think the same thing about boiled peanuts. More on that later.)
The pineapple sandwich (PS) originated in 1898 in the town of Pine Apple (two words), Alabama, but wasn’t popular until the early 1900s when Lucille Studley, a Minnesota native, successfully canned pineapple—not in actual cans but in glass jars—which eliminated the need to buy fresh pineapple for quick consumption. It’s believed that canneries on the West Coast put pineapple in cans before that time, but because of the high cost of shipping and a total misunderstanding of the U.S. market, didn’t export east of the Rocky Mountains until they realized that Lucille was on to something.
Now mayonnaise (brace yourself), the second of three ingredients in the PS, was invented in 1756 by the chef of duc de Richelieu, a French nobleman. Mayonnaise was first known as Duck Deaux, but the name was changed to mayonnaise in 1844 in honor of Frederic Chopin’s Polonaise in A Flat Major, which had been No. 1 on the European hit parade for 101 straight weeks. There was a slight change in translation from Polish to French, but the French folks behind the change thought the eventual short version of mayo would have more appeal to the masses than polo, which sounded kinda snobby. (Incidentally, the next most popular song at the time was Felix Mendelssohn’s The Eyes of Teichland Are upon You, followed closely by Amadeus Mozart’s Sweetheart of Sigmarszel).
The third ingredient of the pineapple sandwich is light bread (yes, light bread—ask your granddaddy.) It does happen to be white, and you don’t ever want to mess with this by substituting whole wheat, rye, etc. It just ain’t right.
So enough about the history of the pineapple sandwich. Here’s the recipe: one can of crushed pineapple—or sliced for those who don’t want to get yucky, two slices of light bread, and your favorite mayonnaise. Slather the light bread with as much mayonnaise as you can get between two pieces. Sling the crushed—or place the sliced—pineapple on top of the mayonnaise.*
Now serve with Golden Flake potato chips or any chips recommended by a college football coach on his Sunday broadcast. Best with a glass of sweet milk (yes, sweet—ask your grandmother. And no, it’s not really sweet.)
*For people with a really sophisticated palate, sprinkle cheese on the pineapple, but don’t tell anybody.
Harold Chambliss is a freelance writer living in Atlanta and in the past.