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.