I have just been through a life-changing experience and I owe it all to—a zester.
“A what?” said my spouse.
“A zester. It’s a small metal kitchen utensil. It’s about the size of a paring knife, except instead of a blade it has a head with a row of little holes — they look like tiny brass knuckles only in stainless-steel. You drag it over the outside of an orange or a lemon, and it makes long thin strips of peel that you can cook with. They’re called ‘orange zest’ or ‘lemon zest.’”
“I always wondered what that meant.”
“Well, now you know. And now you can help me look for my zester, because I need it and it has disappeared.”
I only need a zester a few times a year, including Thanksgiving, when the orange peel is essential for the cranberry sauce.
We were actually past Thanksgiving, but one of my sons had been out of the country on Turkey Day, and I had promised him a Thanksgiving-Observed whenever he got home; and no Thanksgiving is official without cranberry sauce. Some of us think it’s even more essential than the turkey.
I had the cranberries, purchased ahead and frozen since Thanksgiving. I also had the sugar, the orange juice and two beautiful, thick-skinned navel oranges. All that remained was to “zest” the oranges and put all the ingredients into a pot.
Only one problem: No zester.
“I know it’s here! I know it’s somewhere in the house,” I said, frantically, turning over couch cushions.
“What would it be doing in the sofa?” my husband wanted to know.
“How should I know?” I replied, exasperated. “But I’ve already looked everywhere sensible. Now I’m looking everywhere else.”
“But seriously, Judy — the sofa?”
“Do you have a better idea?”
“Actually, yes, I do. How about looking for it in the kitchen — in that drawer of what-do-you call-its?”
“The Drawer of Sharp Things?”
“That’s the one.”
“You don’t think I’ve looked there already? Three times?”
“Alright, what about that other drawer?”
“The Drawer of Things That Didn’t Fit Into the Drawer of Sharp Things? I’ve looked there, too — twice.”
“And what about that one that…”
“The Drawer of Weird Kitchen Things Your Grandmother Gave Us That We Don’t Know What They Do? Checked there, too. I’m telling you, I’ve looked everywhere in the kitchen. Even the freezer. Which is why I’m reduced to checking places like the couch cushions.” With no luck.
We ended up using a vegetable peeler on the oranges, then cutting the skin into slivers. It was not great.
I sat there, all through Thanksgiving Observed, trying not to depress anyone, but I was very upset and couldn’t help complaining, “I lost the zester! Just when I needed it.”
The boys started timing me between eruptions.“Every 90 minutes, Mom. Just like Old Faithful. Can’t you be more mature?”
But I couldn’t. I was just so IRKED with myself.
Finally, in desperation, I did the only thing that’s ever been known to bring a lost item back. Not praying to St. Anthony, but making an offering to his secular cousin. In other words, I ordered a replacement on Amazon.
Later that day, I was carefully putting a knife back in its drawer when my hand came out with—the missing zester.
“I found the zester!” I yelled, heading into the living room to show it off. “I found it.”
“And where was it?” everyone wanted to know.
“Um…right in the Drawer of Sharp Things, where it belonged.”
“Then how come you never found it the three times you looked?”
“It was under a bottle opener with the same exact handle.”
The rest of that day, instead of erupting with “I lost the zester!,” I erupted every 90 minutes with “I found the zester!” I asked my kids whether they thought I had gone completely crazy, but they wouldn’t answer.
I know the answer. I know I was acting like a toothless Granny in the Ozarks, rocking back and forth on her front porch, muttering to herself except for periodically shouting “I found the zester!” But I didn’t care, because I found the zester.
Suddenly, my husband’s cell-phone buzzed with a message and he went out to our own front porch.
When he came back he said, “Actually, I found the zester!” He was holding up a package from Amazon.
So all we need now is two rocking chairs. We’ve already got all the zest we need.