If you put it in the microwave for 12 seconds, it'll be just about right

doug-with-orange-bowlWhy is this extremely tall hairless man grinning so happily as he holds his orange bowl? Perhaps because he loves the color orange, and orange is not that easy to find in a ceramic bowl, and yet here he is, having found the perfect orange ceramic bowl.  Merriment!

Or, maybe the tall hairless man is grinning at a funny text message on his cell phone. Perhaps he grins because he just got new glasses, and until today he had no idea just how beautiful and sharp-edged the world is. Or maybe he just did his laundry, mixing whites with coloreds, and he loves the new grayness of his formerly white t-shirt.

Maybe he’s happy because he has no hair, and he relishes the thought of all the money he’s saving on shampoo, conditioner, and “product.”

In truth, he was placed here on this page because the orange bowl is a stand-in for orange juice, and orange juice – not the tall hairless man in his grayish t-shirt – is the subject of this post. Yet the writer of the post, in her search for orange juice images on the internet from which to download a free, no-copyright-permission-necessary orange juice image, was mildly dissatisfied with all the images she found.

Too sterile, most of them. Perfect orange juice being poured into crystal wineglasses, or perfect orange juice displayed on a tray containing a perfect breakfast, about to be presented to someone wearing a perfect nightgown, sitting up perfectly in a perfect bed.

Also, no pulp. This is a subject on which the writer of this post can wax eloquent, or at least obnoxious. Why is it that so few citizens of her country enjoy orange juice with pulp in it? Why do most cartons of fresh-squeezed, not-from-concentrate orange juice have that NO PULP sign proudly emblazoned across the top?

In her grocery store, NO PULP or PULP FREE takes up the most room, followed by SOME PULP, and lagging far, far behind is the little nearly-hidden row of MOST PULP.

What are you afraid of, people? Despite the fact that even in her own home she is the only pulp drinker, she still buys MOST PULP. You don’t want pulp, strain it. Pulp is what gives orange juice its tastiness, its texture, its tangibility. (Is tangibility a word? Suddenly it doesn’t look right. If it’s not a word, it should be, so it’s staying in.)

She grew up drinking orange juice rarely. Theirs was a frugal household and it was expensive. When she drank it, it was stirred together from a can of frozen concentrate mixed with three, or was it four, cans of cold water.

In her late teens she tasted fresh-squeezed orange juice, and the orange juice of her past immediately and permanently receded down a dusty lane labeled “made from concentrate.”

Later, in her mid-twenties, at a terrible time in her life, she spent some time in Miami at a friend’s apartment.  He went to work in the morning and she sat on his balcony eating bowls of cereal and closing her eyes and tilting her face up to the sun.

She also played John Fogerty loud, extremely loud, so loud that to this day she still can’t believe no one called the cops to make her turn it down. When Centerfield came on she danced around the apartment, which her friend had divided in two with a tall navy blue curtained partition. She used the partition as an unreflecting mirror and danced in front of it.

From the balcony she could see across the street to a shack from which a family sold fruit. It was hot – it was Miami – and the sun beat down on the tin roof of the shack. One day, craving fruit, she went down to the shack. Bananas turning brown, melons going soft, papayas and mangoes and starfruit, which she loved and had not seen since she lived in Taiwan.

And orange juice. Orange juice from a juicer, surrounded by piles of oranges and squeezed into a big jar with a piece of tinfoil laid haphazardly across the opening. Juice that flies buzzed around, and bees. Juice that was not refrigerated and never had been. Juice that she could hear almost all her friends whispering in her ear not to buy, do not buy that, my God the germs, look at those flies.

She bought it and took it back across the street, high up into the apartment, out onto the balcony. So what if it was germy? Didn’t people need germs? That would make them strong, fighting off the germs.

She drank it down. All that pulp. Faintly warm from the sun. The best juice she’d ever had.

Some memories are defining. Did she know back then that it would be that juice, from that shack, that juicer, those flies buzzing around, that she thinks of, to this day, when she thinks “orange juice”?

Now she drinks her non-cold orange juice from the glass she lets sit all morning on the counter and thinks about that family, looking at her in bemusement as every day she bought the juice, the going-bad fruit. John Fogerty blasting so loudly he drowned out her thoughts, which was what she wanted. That balcony and the sun. The dark blue curtain that she couldn’t see herself in.


  1. oreo · June 12, 2009

    they have those little carts in costa rica too. the vendor must have wondered where the crazy gringa was putting it all the first time i glimpsed a pile of oranges next to the juicer and stood there gulping down copious quantities as my lover tugged on my sleeve, trying to tell me it would be there tomorrow. i could have figured for myself that it would be there tomorrow, in that filthy port city where we try to never consume anything, but it was my first time standing in the hot sun with the tangibility of pulp magnifying the tastiness of orange to the nth degree. it was washing away my frugal, concentrate-sogged childhood, quenching a thirst i didn’t even know i had. i was determined to drain every. last. drop.

    thanks for making me remember. and i too have always wondered why they advertise “no pulp” as though orange juice without orangeness is a good thing.


  2. alison · June 12, 2009

    oreo, are you me? sometimes i wonder.


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