“Zest is the secret of all beauty. There is no beauty that is attractive without zest” (Christian Dior).
ZEST IS AN UNDENIABLY ATTRACTIVE QUALITY. I’m not sure I would go as far as Christian Dior and say there is no beauty that is attractive without it, for I can think of one or two kinds of beauty that attract with serenity rather than with zest. But even so, zest gets a great amount of favorable publicity and rightfully so.
Most dictionaries indicate that there are two basic meanings of the word “zest” as we use it today. Both of these meanings are suggestive of good things when we speak of zest as a personal characteristic.
(1) Intense flavor, piquancy. Zestful flavors are those that have some zing and zip to them. The word “zest” comes from an obsolete French word for orange or lemon peel, and we still sometimes use “zest” to refer to the outermost part of the rind of an orange or lemon. As a cook, I love to see zest as an ingredient in a recipe! And I love it no less when I encounter someone who, as a person, has an “intense flavor.” People with zest tend to be those who’ve thought about life and taken a definite stand for some things as opposed to others.
(2) Spirited enjoyment, gusto. People with zest also live with a liveliness and eagerness that is lacking in people who’re more bland. There is some “kick” in their outlook and some “gusto” in their manner of living. That doesn’t mean that they’re unprincipled or immoral; it just means they appreciate that there is much in this world to relish and they’ve determined to taste it in all of its tanginess.
As I said above, zest may not be the absolute prerequisite for beauty, and likewise, it may not be a personal characteristic that every person in the world should have, at least insofar as their personality is concerned. Yet I believe there is a sense in which every person should look at life in a zestful way. As Bertrand Russell said, “What hunger is in relation to food, zest is in relation to life.” Life is too interesting, and too important, for us not to live it with eagerness and enjoyment. In the case of all but a few of us, I reckon we’d do a better job of living if we put a little more “kick” into our philosophy!
“Mirth is the sweet wine of human life. It should be offered sparkling with zestful life unto God” (Henry Ward Beecher).