I’ve been sick, really.
I don’t remember if I did this when I was a child or if others did it to me, but, the memory is there of orange peel being squeezed in my face and of feeling the light, stinging spray of citric acid -my first introduction to citrus zest.
Zest is a great word meaning to enjoy something keenly, with relish, and also a pleasant flavor or exciting quality – that is why it is applied to the outer peel of citrus fruits. The white part beneath, called the pith, is often bitter but the outer peel or flavedo is full of flavor and is used in many ways.
You might find it in orange marmalade, lemon flavored baked goods. I like to keep a lemon in my freezer for recipes calling for lemon zest. A fine grater or special zesting tool can be used to cut the peel. It is often used as a garnish too because of its bright color and full flavor.
Another use, and one of my favorites, is in citrus essential oils. Here is your trivia for the day; when cold pressed, it requires 3,000 lemons to produce a kilo of lemon essential oil. The chemical constituents in this oil, the list is too long to include, have anticancer, antidepressant, antiseptic, antifungal, antioxidant, antiviral, astringent, invigorating, refreshing and tonic properties. All of which might make you think that we should be eating the peeling, not just the lemon. It works for me to put a few drops of the oil in my glass of water.
The next time a server in a restaurant asks you if you would like a slice of lemon in your water or other drink, you might have a good reason to say “yes, please”. Just sayin’…
I met her several years ago because her son was needing help with his English schoolwork. I was a tutor for the “No Child Left Behind” program and arrived at their home one day after school to spend some time meeting the family and assessing exactly what was needed. Our friendship went from being centered on her son to food rather quickly. She was always cooking something in large quantities and urging me to take some. She packaged hot meals and sold them to workers at her husband’s workplace.
She and her husband were Hispanic and back in Mexico she had gotten a degree in Accounting, I think, but that didn’t count for much here in the States. She did whatever she could find to do in between her children’s school schedules. Her husband worked in construction but this was in 2008 and Florida’s economy was taking a hit. They were barely making their house payments, but they had their own place. It was clean and neat.
Our friendship deepened later on. Hispanic women (and men) have a thing for fragrance and Zenaida signed up with me to sell cosmetics and perfume. We marketed together, got dressed up and went to sales meetings. Later still, when my daughter needed an extra hand in her house-cleaning business, I suggested she try Zenaida and it was a good suggestion. The clients loved her integrity and work ethic. When my daughter moved on to vet school, Zenaida inherited her business.
Zenaida is still the friend who shows up at birthday parties and graduations with a full tray of home cooked tamales (my daughter’s favorite). She still wants to help with my cleaning and yard work and is the hardest one to take any pay for her work. She just wants to be a friend, and she is. And her name begins with Z (for which I am thankful).
Zenaida is a common name for women in several cultures and is also the name given to the Zenaida dove which is our mourning dove.