How Do Lefties Peel Vegetables?

Left-handed people have a lot to complain about, starting with semantics (sinister, gauche, goofy) and ending with the unproven claim that lefties die younger than righties. Somewhere in the middle lies a valid complaint about kitchen tools, especially vegetable peelers, most of which are made for right-handed people. The culprit appears to be old or cheap peelers where the manufacturer has only sharpened one side of the blade.

“If it is symmetrical in all ways, it should not be handed,” explains Timothy Yee, director of marketing for DKB Household, which makes Zyliss vegetable peelers. “It would make a difference [for lefties] with one side sharpened. You’d have to flip it over and pull up,” he says. A peeler made with a bend in the handle might likewise be awkward to flip over and use. Y-shaped peelers are ambidextrous by default, says Michelle Sohn, a category director at OXO.

The people we spoke to from Kuhn Rikon, OXO, and DKB all told us they sharpen both sides of their blades, creating ambidextrous peelers. Yee says the main reason a manufacturer wouldn’t do this is to avoid extra costs: If a company uses grinding equipment that requires the blades to be taken out and flipped to hit both sides, it will just make a peeler one-sided to save time and money.

The only other kitchen tools that are handed are scissors and can openers, says Sohn. (Although serrated knives and some Japanese knives are handed.) With a can opener, you have one hand squeezing and one turning, so if you want to turn the knob with your stronger hand, you can’t do that as a lefty. “But lefties have just sort of learned to do it,” Sohn says, noting that can openers with the knob located on the top are universal. She says OXO tries not to exclude lefties: “Even our pie server is serrated on both sides.” Despite this, a cottage industry has grown up around servicing the underserved, with products such as measuring jugs with the measurements on the opposite side, corkscrews that twist counterclockwise, and more.

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