keen relish; hearty enjoyment; gusto.

an agreeable or piquant flavor imparted to something.

anything added to impart flavor, enhance one’s appreciation, etc.

piquancy; interest; charm.

liveliness or energy; animating spirit.

the peel, especially the thin outer peel, of a citrus fruit used for flavoring: lemon zest.


I’ve been thinking about “zest” recently.

Truth be told: I needed a “z” word anyway for my post title today, as this is the 26th day of the March Slice of Life Story Challenge and I secretly decided to stick with the abecedarian approach that worked for me last year. “Ta-daaa,” as my sixteen-month-old granddaughter would say.

But there’s also the fact that I haven’t felt much zest for anything of late, having battled viral congestion for the last four weeks, in the midst of this already extremely challenge-riddled school year. One really cannot have zest for sleep, right? It’s an oxymoron. I did crave citrus, however, for one zest-ish connection. Last week I stocked up on clementines and three kinds of juice; nothing has been more restorative than drinking giant glasses of pure o.j. on ice throughout the day. Clearly I needed the vitamin C, for I am almost well now. That plus time…

It just so happens that I’ve been reading about zest being part of necessary human strengths as defined by positive psychology, which focuses on eudaimonia, Greek for “good spirit.” Turns out that zest, or enthusiasm, is linked to courage and other traits necessary for individual happiness, satisfaction, mental health, and living life well. It’s a relatively new and accordingly controversial domain of psychology… yet I hear a ring of truth in it.

Maybe I should say I can taste the truth in it.

Consider these phrases from the Dictionary.com definition of zest: keen relish, hearty enjoyment, gusto; anything added to enhance one’s appreciation; piquancy, interest, charm; liveliness or energy; animating spirit...

In short, a person must have positive experiences to look forward to (akin to hope) that bring true enjoyment. The very knowledge is energizing; so is the savoring of the experiences. In its own way, zest is the antidote to the inertia of despair. If we are zest-deficient, what can we do about it? It’s different for different folks…does it mean finding a new job or career, or being an agent of change where you are? Does it mean taking up skydiving, parasailing, horseback riding, or volunteering in a place where people are suffering? Is zest in itself an end goal, or does it forge a path to a different kind of fulfillment tied to purpose and value?

All food for thought. In the end, zest is a motivator for something intrinsically rewarding. There are people with a zest for cooking, gardening, sports, hiking, biking, singing, building, redecorating… the greatest connective tissue I see is energy. These are physical activities.

I think about writing. I love it. I work at it. I set a goal to write a meaningful post every day last year and I accomplished it. Yet I cannot say zest was often or even occasionally involved…which brings me to ask myself: Where is there zest in my life? Once upon a time, people might have jokingly mentioned the soap; remember the slogan “You’re not fully clean until you’re Zestfully clean”?

As soon as I ask, an image begins forming in my mind…

A birthday party a few years ago, with extended family. The guest of honor, turning sweet sixteen. Dark eyes sparkling, cheeks rosy from all the attention on this special day. She loves acting, her grandmother informed me. Wants to perform onstage.

She could have been me, years ago. I relished performing in plays at her age…I wanted to do it for the rest of my life. Zest!

It is not what happened for me, but as cake and ice cream was served, immense gratitude for the life and family I have flooded my soul.

Zest, by the way, is also linked to gratitude; a savoring, as I mentioned.

I took my plate of cake and ice cream, which I expected to be vanilla, but—oh!

“Is this lemon ice cream?” I asked. I knew it was. Unexpected and amazing. Not tart. Just sweet silken cream, with a breath of light lemon fragrance…

“Yes,” came the answer. “It’s homemade.”

I had to have the recipe. I thought immediately of two people for whom I wanted to make it: my daughter-in-law and my sister-in-law. They love lemon. I like it, say, in old-fashioned (real) lemonade, in my ice water, in pound cake…not so much in meringue pies. This ice cream, though, was divine.

And so I’ve made it several times since, usually as a topping for blueberry cobbler straight from the oven. Last time I made it was at the beach. My sister-in-law arranges for our families to vacation there each summer. She started doing this after her brother, my husband, had a massive heart attack and was almost taken from us. And so we celebrate togetherness and the good life (another translation of eudaimonia). I sat at the big wooden table in the upper room of the beach house while my nephew-in-law cooked dinner. Everyone was laughing and talking, we were hungry from having been in the sun all day, the ocean sparkled like diamonds beyond the windows, and there was a faint taste of salt on my lips as I grated the lemon rinds to make this ice cream.

Zest. For my family.

My sister-in-law took one spoonful and said, “That’s the best ice cream I’ve ever had in my life.”

It’s also the simplest…as the best things in life are.

No machines, needed, just a bit of work and a willing spirit, ready to share.

Of course this post would not be complete without the recipe…

A bit of zest for your day, friends, on the wings of wellness.

Lemon Ice Cream

1 pint whipping cream
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

Combine whipping cream and sugar; stir until sugar dissolves

Stir in lemon zest.

Sir in fresh lemon juice.

Pour into freezer-safe container, and freeze.


lemon ice cream. jules:stonesoup. CC BY 2.0.

18 thoughts on “Zest

  1. I’m so surprised after reading this post, Fran. From reading your slices, you seem to have such a zest for life. I would have never known you weren’t having much zest for things lately. I hope that you find your mojo again soon. Life is about ebbs and flows, so it will return. This slice is very reflective. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Jennifer. This illness struck about the same time the Challenge started…isn’t that the way? I was determined to keep writing even when so depleted at times that I could barely keep my eyes open. I have a deep awe and reverence for life even when my energy is drained…work has done that more than anything else this year. May be time for a change. We shall see. At any rate – zest is always there for time I can spend with my granddaughters! And today I am feeling as strong as I have in a month. I appreciate your words of encouragement.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Fran, I LOVE this post. There’s so much I want to say. I will keep it to three points:
    -Thank you for including the recipe. As I was reading it, I kept thinking, “I have to have that recipe.”
    -Thank you for mentioning heart attacks that almost take people’s life. My dad has been dead seven times and medical staff, whether they are EMTs, doctors in the hospital, or nurses in the grocery store have “saved” him each time. But each time it happens, a little less of him returns to us.
    -Maybe we can’t have a zest for sleep, but what about a zest for self care? As educators, I think we all need a little bit more of a zest for self care in our lives.
    And before I go, how did I not realize your brilliant abecedarian plan?!?!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kate, I hope you will try the lemon ice cream recipe and be amazed! My husband… it’s coming up on four years since the massive heart attack and cardiac arrest. He was driving and ran off the road but fortunately didn’t hurt anyone; the truck stopped in a wooded copse just short of a ravine. EMS saved him by working on him for over an hour and shocking him ten – yes, ten – times with paddles. Every attending physician and surgeon told us that those first responders were heroes. Eventually my husband went to thank them. Your dad – seven times – I almost cannot imagine. It’s providential how someone has always been there to save him. But I know the ice that must run in your veins at every call and the toll it all takes. Strength to him and your family… and as for self-care, that is indeed a good thing to be zestful about! I have realized it more than ever recently. Writing for me is a form of self-care as well as means of celebrating life. Being with my two little granddaughters is the pinnacle of my zest these days – for as we know, time with loved ones is precious and goes too quickly. I so appreciate you and your words, truly.


  3. This is a wonderful exploration of word and concept and the central anchor of what you wrote, for me is: “… a person must have positive experiences to look forward to (akin to hope) that bring true enjoyment.”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Fran, a big part of my zest yesterday was thinking of November and the forward thinking – the voices – the way you reached out. A strong family is something to be very proud of and to consider a beautiful blessing. Especially those who realize the value of spending time on vacation to make memories – to remind ourselves that none of us will be here forever, and the memories we make are what will last. That lemon ice cream? Yeah, that’ll be happening in my freezer in April. I have a time in mind already. Thank k you for sharing the recipe and the story of how it came to you. I bought a book yesterday entitled The Last Sunday Drive about traditions that are dying – Sunday drives, gas stations with full service, and all sorts of things. I can’t wait to dive in more. It’s a gem of a book and the homemade ice cream made me think of all the things our generation loved that we must carry on for our children and grandchildren. Postcards. Vacations at the beach. Lemon ice cream, homemade, and sharing the recipes. These moments of being so present in the world the way we know it are vitally important today, and your post speaks of this. It’s rich with thoughts of others.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, Kim – you always do my heart good! I am excited about November and I think yesterday when I wrote you it was with the first real burst of energy since getting sick about a month ago. I am obviously run down; I don’t want to blame it all on work but my colleagues have had various stress-related illnesses…just saying. Now is a time of taking stock for me. Recalibrating. We shall see where this leads…but ultimately two certain little girls are top priority for me! Exactly as you said: “None of us will be here forever, and the memories we make are what will last” – because of the love, which goes on and on and on. Likewise, that book sounds perfect. I believe we will see more people returning to these kinds of things, for the quality of the experience. I so remember my Granddaddy making homemade ice cream with the electric freezer, pouring in the rock salt. So wish he was here to taste this easy lemon version! I think he’d love it – and I feel sure you will. You must let me know. Lastly – how can there NOT be zest whenever you are involved, my amazing, energetic friend?! Thank you for your every word.


  5. I am with one of the above posters in not realizing that you were feeling less zestful. Your writing did not convey any zestlessness, that’s for sure. Then again, my powers of observation are not so great, as I also didn’t realize that you had been doing that abcedarian thing again. Now I need to go back and pay closer attention. I’ll be coming back for the Lemon Ice recipe anyway. I’m so impressed by a year of meaningful entries. I should have time for that now, but I am lacking in discipline. It’s a worthy aspiration, though. Thanks for adding zest to my reading.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for not noticing any zestlessness (you may have just coined a new word). I should not want to write nor read zestless writing… be that as it may, the Challenge has been doubly so with this tenacious sickness. Sometimes I didn’t think I’d pull a post off… but, conversely, that’s sometimes just the thing to keep a body going. I really didn’t plan the abecedarian titles this time; it’s just that I started with Auspices and went to Baby Ballerina and then it became a Thing. Part of the – fun? zest? – became: Ok, I have this idea, what can I call it that starts with____…. and sometimes that shaped the whole post. I never advertised to anyone last year that I had a goal of a post a day. I just decided I’d try. There were times I had to double up or plan ahead, but once I got going, I was determined. As we know from SLOSC, the greatest thing about the daily posting is the intense mindfulness it sparks – every sight, every scene, every snippet of conversation, every mood, every moment can be a post. Kids don’t believe it when you tell them the more you write, the more you’ll find to write about, but it’s absolutely true. If you try the lemon ice cream, you must let me know what you think of it! Thank you yet again for your always-gracious and uplifting words.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Such a wonderful slice. So much food for thought. I think ‘zest’ is one of my favourite words. Thanks for going into your interpretations in such depth and for the recipe, it sounds delicious! I hope your zest returns soon and you recover fully from all infection.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “Awe” is one of my favorite words and concepts, and now I am drawn to “zest” – representing the A-Z gamut! All of it leads back to faith for me, as you will know. Part of of my reading was about students needing to have zest for their learning, which is so true. It made me think of how much needs to change for this to happen… and I also thought of your little students and their bright faces – they DO seems to have such zest for learning! The lemon ice cream is exquisite. I will make some soon, as today I am feeling stronger than I have in about a month. Thank you for your kind and encouraging thoughts, Celia.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh, Fran, what a beautiful post. I have missed most of your posts this month, now I want to go back and look at the A to Zestfulness of your slices. Will you do a post about the titles? Perhaps make an abderian poem using the titles? I love that you did this so intentionally even when you weren’t feeling well this past month. Thank you for the easy recipe for the lemon ice cream. I will definitely try it! Your post was thought-provoking, inspiring, touching, so much of yourself. Thank you for sharing your zestful living.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for you lovely thoughts, Denise – and what a great idea: a poem incorporating blog post titles! Can I do it, I wonder-? Maybe I ought to get on that ASAP as I have no clue what tomorrow’s post will be! If you do make the lemon ice cream you must let me know what you think of it.


  8. You draw many layers of meaning out of this word and offer us rich gifts in the process. I am making a note of this recipe, too.

    I am sorry and sobered to learn of your times of low zest. If it has been the case recently, this post would seem to redeem it.

    I am not sure which I relish more: your poetry or your meditations in prose. No need for me to decide, I suppose, merely to enjoy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • First, Paul, thank you for such uplifting words and thoughts. I am heartened and honored that you enjoy the posts, whether poetry or prose, for I know you are a reader and writer of fine things, as well as an appreciator of aesthetics! So, this means much. Even though my energy and zest in general took a nosedive in these long four weeks of battling tenacious congestion and fatigue, I nevertheless clung to appreciation of all that I love. I was forced to rest; I read a book of stunning poetry about bird language; I did my best to get well ASAP to spend time with my granddaughters (Priority #1); and I kept on writing when I didn’t think I had anything left. Today I am feeling stronger than I have in a month – which is good, as I haven’t a clue what my next post should be! If you do try the ice cream recipe you must let me know what you think. Once again – thank you so much.


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