It’s probably a bit odd that I still remember learning how to properly use a peeler. It was in one of my first Brownie meetings in the late 1970s. The earnest camp leaders endlessly repeated their single instruction—peel away from your hands. They were absolutely hell-bent on making sure that we did not peel away our own little knuckles. Funny, I still expect someday to do just that. And yet I peel on.
The common veg peeler—though you won’t hear many conversations about it, most cooks do have a preference for either the straight or Y-shaped peeler. With so many permutations of ceramic blades, metal blades, bird shapes, and curved blades, the variations can seem infinite. Each does have an eye remover, though. We can’t abide unwanted eyes.
These simple tools, used so often without thought about how necessary they really are, generally cost only a few dollars, and are one of the more affordable kitchen staples.
The basic stainless steel swiveling straight blade, featured here, is actually a Swedish design that was introduced in 1953 as the “Original” Jonas by Oscar Lundin and Sune Sjoberg and is still made by Linden Sweden. Peelers of this design can be found for well under $10.
Just a few years earlier, in 1947, the Swiss came up with the other reigning favorite, the REX economy vegetable peeler. Gracing the face of Swiss postage stamps and included in the pantheon of Swiss design, the Y-shaped REX has a wider grip, which some find more comfortable.
Personally, as a fan of clean and uncluttered spaces, I am not one for gadgets of any sort, and so it makes perfect sense that I bought a plain straight peeler 20-some years ago. I have never given it another thought, mostly because it works well and requires no further attention.
I most appreciate the way it makes nice thin ribbons and little wispy slices of cucumbers, radishes, and zucchini, all easy to chew for this already very slow eater. (Give me chunks of carrots and I’ll be sitting at the table ages after everyone else has finished.)