In Dicta

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Triumph of perserverance and entrepreneurship

I love to hear stories like these:

"SIX years ago I received a call from a man named Edwin Rodriguez, an unemployed janitor. He had invented a plantain peeler and wanted to know if I would like to see it. A few days later Mr. Rodriguez's prototype arrived in the mail. It was carved from wood and painted green and lemon yellow like a child's toy — and was otherwise the most phallic cooking tool I'd ever seen. I quickly tucked it into my desk drawer.

But when I tried it out in the privacy of my home kitchen, it worked ingeniously. There was a blade for trimming off the ends of the fruit and cutting seams into the peel without harming the inner plantain. And at one end was a spade-shaped wood piece designed to mimic a thumbnail — the implement that, in the absence of a plantain peeler like Mr. Rodriguez's, is normally is used to wedge under the peel and lift it in strips. Peeling a green plantain is not like peeling a banana. The skin sticks, and if you're not careful you can easily split the fruit's flesh; you need a sharp paring knife and good knife skills.

I called Mr. Rodriguez to tell him I was impressed by his invention and wanted to write about it.

"Where can you buy it?" I asked.

"Oh, but we don't have a manufacturer," he said. With regret, I explained that it would be hard to write about a product that readers couldn't experience for themselves, and encouraged him to call back once it was in production.


Without money or connections it had taken Mr. Rodriguez, 58, more than 12 years to move his E-Z Peeler from concept to manufacture. The process began in 1990 when Mr. Rodriguez, who had grown up in Puerto Rico, was laid off from Public School 117 in East Harlem, where he had been a janitor."

That is what I call a person who will go forward in life.

From The New York Times.


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