Zester

Use the zester to scrape the zesty bits off

The zester is an ideal tool for grating tough skins to enhance many different and exotic recipes

ESSENTIAL USER NOTES

Grating the zest from citris fruit, though necessary for the preparation of many recipes, was a tricky operation for chefs before the zester was as widespread a kitchen utensil as it is today. It was Edmund Hillary's conquest of Everest in 1953, that caused the zester to rocket to fame. Though invented many years earlier, few ordinary people had heard of the zester until Sherpah Tenzing, for want of olives, used one to create a twist of lemon in response to Hillary's now legendary command: "Get me a martini, Tenzing, you lazy foreigner."

Before the Industrial Revolution, British mountaineering was an activity only undertaken by the nobility, the Royal Family, and a few other mad people. This was principally a result of the difficulties of maintaining adequate personal hygiene. The obvious problems of unreliable high-altitude soap, combs that would become brittle in low temperatures, and natives that would insist on drinking all the mouthwash, combined to make the mountain environment particularly hostile to anyone intent on keeping up appearances. Mountaineering was only for those with the greatest financial resources and the largest numbers of servants, and those who didn't mind smelling like a dead mountain goat. George III's hiking boots were typical of the time. Constructed of greased elephant hide and walrus gut, studded with lead hobnails, they were as waterproof from the inside as from without, and after a typical day's rambling would often be over half-full with sweat. This played havoc with the Royal feet, and callusses, carbuncles and corns abounded. In 1762, after a particularly uncomfortable failed attempt at the north face of Windsor Castle, the King had had enough of the whole business and offered prize money of £2 3s 2d (a small fortune in those days) for anyone who came up with a solution. But it was not until a year later, after rejecting over a thousand applicants, that a solution was finally found.

Obadiah Bunion may have been just a simple potato farmer from the depths of Hertfordshire, born to a family that had been farming potatoes since records began, but he had a special affinity for potatoes and a flair for genius for all things potato-related. It was he who first asked "Why are potatoes potato-shaped?" and he who had articulated the question "Why do potatoes have funny lumps all over them?" with such clarity. He knew that if potatoes could be grown with more regular shapes, and fewer lumps, more would be able to be stacked in each basket, increasing yield and the effectiveness of harvesting, maximising efficiency and profitability. He came up with a simple and elegant solution to the problem - a device that could precisely remove the lumps from the potatoes and cunningly shape them more appropriately to fit in their collection baskets. But for the fact of genetics, of which he was blissfully unaware, his idea might have worked. But it was only a small step to adapt his potato smoothing device to the human foot to make it perfect for excising those painful and unsightly growths caused by the ill-fitting hiking boots of the age of enlightenment.

Bunion's idea caught the King's imagination and he won the prize money, which, unsurprisingly, he invested in potatoes. The device, which was known as "Bunion's Remover", became part of every nobleman's footcare kit for the next two hundred years. When Hillary conquered Everest, a bunion remover was taken with them, which, unlike much of their kit, was sufficiently portable to make it to the peak itself, along with a bottle of gin and a lemon. And in his moment of triumph, this was the only tool to Sherpah Tenzing's hand with which to cut the lemon to garnish his master's celebratory martini.

And the zester, or so we call it these days, has remained in use for garnishing martinis ever since.

The zester is perfect for lemon twists for long and short drinks
Use this utensil to make Black Forest Eggs With Garlic Apple Crostini

QUICK START GUIDE

DO:

  • use the zester as a substitute for a grater, as long as you aren't doing a lot of grating;
  • use the zester to cut lemon twists to garnish cocktails, including martinis;
  • use the zester to grate the zest from the skin of citrus fruit;
  • use the zester to grate the surface from the skin of other fruit and vegetables;
  • in extreme need, use the zester to grate the surface from growths on tired feet.

DON'T:

  • use the zester to grate the surface of growths on feet if you are making cocktails at the same time.

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