Posted by: sean | August 19, 2008

My New Squeeze

There comes a time in a man’s life when he decides to buy a juice extractor.  My time came last week.  At around 10 a.m.  I was sitting in my office, working diligently, but something wasn’t quite right.  I looked out of my window, trees swayed in the breeze, branches bulged with citrusy delectables.  I looked back at my computer screen, began to type a few words, and then paused again.  It was time.  I pushed my chair back with resolve.  In the hallway, I saw Tim.  Tim is a graduate anthropology student at George Washington University working for the Carter Center and the United States Institute for Peace this summer.  Tim, I’m going to buy a juice extractor, want to come?

Moments later we were walking with purpose and steely gazes towards what I fondly refer to as the Carter Car.  Zinnah, our driver, was listening to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings on the radio.  This was no time for national catharsis.  This was a time for impulsive consumerism.

Hey Zinnah.  We have a mission!  Juice extractor!  To the Carter Car!
Actually, my decision to buy a juice extractor wasn’t quite this impulsive.

I often eat lunch with my coworker Pewee.  We’ve got the routine down at the local restaurant, the Mamba Point: we scour the menus, pretend to read, and I order Pewee chicken corn soup and he asks them to dish me up some chicken korma.  We joke about how well we have the routine down.  Would we like anything to drink?  Pewee looks me in the eye, a knowing smile.  He turns to the waiter.  Do you have any Diet Snapple? They clearly don’t, but Pewee, a diabetic, got hooked on the stuff when he visited Atlanta and actually arranged with the local grocery store for them to import it in bulk (he says there are a couple ‘Diet Snapple guys’ hanging out at the grocery store, waiting for the next shipment, the next fix).  No Diet Snapple…I see…do you have juice?  Fresh juice – I mean reeaaaaal juice? They do not.  Pewee shakes his head in disappointment and orders a bottle of water.  As the waiter recedes into the kitchen – where, by estimation of the time it will take for us to get our orders (or discern that they don’t have the ingredients to cook our food), he will take a nap – Pewee begins a lecture on the lack of fresh juice:

On the Inexcusable Absence of Fresh Juices and Other Things Squeezable in a Country with Bountiful Fresh Fruit and Such: A Lecture
“These guys!  This country has so much. So many things!  There should be fresh juice everywhere.  Just shake a tree and you get fruit.  These guys!  Instead we import boxed juice?  Why?  This country has so much!”

And he’s right.  Liberia has so much – so many resources – but it doesn’t have the proper tools to…um….squeeze these resources.  Enter the juicer.  I often suggest to Pewee that he set up Pewee’s Juice Place and make fresh juice (based on his reaction to cab drivers in Monrovia, I also suggest that he should be Minister of Transportation, but he says that he would last only for a couple of hours before resigning in frustration) and he agrees; but it was only a few weeks ago that I first realized that I could make my own fresh juice.  In Liberia you have to be Liberian to own land, practice law, or get a sweet discount at the World Food Program gym (the World Food Program had none of my tenuous argument that I was ‘of African decent’), but there is no law saying that non-Liberians can’t juice.

I mulled the idea for a few days.

Some days later I went out to dinner with Leah.  I went to undergrad with Leah and now she is in town for the summer working for the Ministry of Internal Affairs.  After dinner, we went to Mona Liza for dessert, a kitschy Italian place reputed to have the best ice cream in town, and who should I see bent over a tall glass of juice but He of the Juice Lecture, Pewee!!!   My jaw dropped.

J’Accuse!!!  J’Accuse Pewee!  You are drinking boxed juice!

Pewee informed me that I should not be j’accusing so – he was drinking fresh juice.  He pointed to the juice extractor on the counter and a pile of fruit.  I was intrigued.  While Leah and Pewee talked, I kept my eyes on the juice extractor, studying its motions, taking notes on the process, miming proper juicing form.

I mulled the idea for a few more days.  And then I found myself sitting in my office one day, inexplicably drawn to the window to look out on a land of Plenty and Fruit.

Zinnah whisked Tim and I to the local kitchenware shop.  Confronted with an entire aisle of juice extractors I realized that in my weeks of mulling, I hadn’t actually done a single minute of research into juicers; I had been imaging fantastic scenarios where people would travel for miles for my juice, where President Johnson Sirleaf would pop by for a glass of grapefruit-mango-kiwi juice (no doubt her favorite).  In the end I opted for a brand name I knew over more exotic brand names whose juice extractors would clearly combust when I turned the power on.  Then, in a flourish, I decided that cocktails wouldn’t make themselves, I needed a blender, too.  Finally, I grabbed some grapefruit.

Zinnah dropped us off at my house and I made my first glass of juice.  It was sublime.  A watershed moment in my life.

The juicer

Making juice is kind of messy.  Also, it takes a lot of fruit to make a small amount of juice.  A few days after the juicer felt comfortable in its new surroundings, my friend Lauren texted me requesting a ‘juice session’, which would have been a strange request if I didn’t have a juicer.  We put in an entire papaya and got a tiny glob of papaya juice.  It looked more like baby food.  We came to the conclusion that papaya does not make good juice.  Otherwise, the juicer is spot on.

Summer enjoys a spot o' morning juice

Summer enjoys a spot o' morning juice

The juicer also makes a fair bit of noise.  While all’s fair in the pursuit of the perfect juice, I am slightly worried that the Liberian parents on my street will start warning their children to steer clear of the White Man’s place.  My compound has walls topped with barbed wire and a huge black gate, which probably makes the unnatural grinding of juicing gears seem more foreboding.  We see fruit go in, but no one has ever seen fruit come out…

Pewee has been in the U.S., unaware that I possess a juice extractor.  When he returns next week, I’ll have a tall glass of mango-pineapple-lemon juice ready for him and a solid business proposal for Pewee’s Juice Place.  A juicy proposal.

John and Cybil were in no way asked to smile as I took a picture of them drinking juice

John and Cybil enjoy a damn fine glass of OJ


  1. If the trees are bulging in the land of fruit, why so skimpy on the juice in the photo’s? One can only surmise that you are (1) trying to manipulate the price point to your smiling friends in deciding where the future price threshold will be at ‘Peewee’s Juice Stand’ (2) afraid to climb fruit trees (3) still trying to figure out why you bought a small lime green juicer or (4) wondering who all these people are drinking your juice?

  2. Bravo, friend.

  3. Are you trying to tell me the Tropicana OJ in my fridge is not freshly sqeezed,then why in the hell do they leave that damn pulp in there? I’m confused. Carry on, my enterprising lad.

  4. What am I doing in that picture? I look like I’m about to pour the juice behind my arm…perhaps in some little known West African good luck ritual….

  5. Do you also ship juice? I’d love some!

  6. The elephants are getting restless. And not just because they are in a small room and everyone refuses to look at them. Also because it’s been too long since a blog entry.

  7. I agree with mr. p…..can we get a new entry….thank you brother

  8. […] relayable portions of my time in the land of liberty that can be funny.   My fear of flying, my juice extractor, and my blind obedience to repetitive songlists don’t really tell you anything important about […]

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