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Culinary Anthropologist

Hummus: What You Don’t Know Now You Know!

by | Aug 25, 2013 | Blog

It seems that the western world of recent years has become infatuated with this basic and simple  food/meal.  To some its a dip for a vegetable crudité at a party, to others its a vegetable spread for sandwiches and to others it has become an alternate protein source to vegans and those who want to replace animal protein in their daily diet. When you visit the prepared foods or ethnic sections in your local market  you see it presented in many varieties from traditional, Greek, black bean, cilantro and lemon,  red pepper, spicy, Kalamata olives, sun dried tomato, etc. and the list goes on and on. This food staple is nothing new to the world, only new to us in the U.S. with the onslaught of highly visible marketing of every type of food based company on the planet.  But to those of us who really value, treasure, and pay homage to foods origin, culture and practical  everyday uses its simple. We prepare it in its original form. That’s right, the traditional way: chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice, tahini (ground sesame seeds),  olive oil, a bit of paprika, salt, and cumin, whirl it up in a food processor and viola! break out the pita bread, kick your feet up on the couch or the lounge chair and enjoy the afternoon.

Today, I want to present to some and introduce to others… Hummus (HOOM-uhs)! It  has been  said that hummus was originated from the Middle East. The Greeks, Arabians and the Israeli’s all lay claim to its origin as their own. But according to historical information, hummus most likely originated from Ancient Egypt in which  originated some 7,000 years ago in Egyptian culture. Chickpeas were abundant  in the fertile regions of the Middle East and commonly eaten. The Greeks and Egyptian were traders for centuries.  Greek and Arabian  cuisine share many similar foods items in their cuisines.  Some of the food items are stuffed grape leaves, baklava and tabbouleh which are quite similar with specific differences of regional and local ingredients that are used. Many foods crossed over  during historical periods especially during the height of the Ottoman Empire. Hummus is also a part of several Middle Eastern cultures like Syrian/Yemen , Lebanese, Israeli and Palestinian. In Syria its one of the most popular dishes which is traditional eaten with falafel, kibbe and tabbouleh. In  Israel its  a common part of the every day meals. Its popular because its made from ingredients that follow the Kashrut which is the Jewish dietary laws which hummus can be combined with both meat and dairy meals. In Israel it has been elevated  to become a “national food  symbol” and consumed more than twice as much as the neighboring Arabic countries, according to figures by Tsabar Salads, a hummus manufacturer in Israel. In Palestine hummus has been a long staple food, often served warm (see I told your so earlier), with  bread for breakfast , lunch or dinner. Its usually garnished with olive oil, “nana” mint leaves, paprika, parsley or cumin.  Today its popular throughout the Middle East, Turkey, North Africa, Morocco and in Middle Eastern cuisine around the world. Chickpeas were widely eaten in the regions in which they were often cooked in stews and other hot dishes. The earliest know recipes for a dish similar to hummus bi tahina (when tahina is added to hummus) are recorded in cookbooks published in Cairo in the 13th century. A cold puree of chickpeas with vinegar and pickled lemon with herbs, spices, and oil, but no tahini or garlic, appears in the Kitāb al-Wusla ilā l-habīb fī wasf al-tayyibāt wa-l-tīb. This is very interesting to me because the historical background of a particular food item can be claimed by one or several cultures, but once you found out its earliest primitive origins can really be eye opening to many. I think we will all be surprised to where certain food really originated from. That’s why I chose to write, explore, comprehend and share the historical and cultural aspect of the foods and cuisines that we treasure from all around the world.

A traditional Middle Eastern meal is spread before the family and guests. This is where hummus makes its grand entrance to the affair as a dip or spread. It is the highlight of the food festivities as  a starter or appetizer of the culinary delicacies that are to be presented before the hungry guests that would induce a great sense of conversation and fellowship through the dining experience. So you see hummus is more than a bunch of mashed chickpeas  with lemon juice, spices and seasoning mixed in a bowl and served cold. Traditionally speaking its prepared and served at room temperature so the true flavor and essence can be captured  by the palate with the silkiness of texture, strong, yet subtle hints of fresh garlic and lemon juice, favorable olive oil and nutty profile of tahini (sesame seed paste). Its traditionally served with pita bread, a staple bread of the Middle East.  This starter wins  and outweighs the competition which is usually Potato Chips and sour cream and onion dip by a long shot! The reason being when its made properly with freshest and best quality ingredients  you can’t help but go back and get some more time after time.

Actually I made a small batch yesterday evening after having a taste for it for about a week. I was in the store earlier this week picking up a few things and I was in the deli/prepared foods section and saw several brands of hummus and put a few in my basket and then picked up some pita chips (my favorite brand that I will not reveal). I thought this would take care of my midday and late evening snacking with some baby carrots and  celery sticks. As I continued shopping through the store it hit me that I can make my own for less than half the price of the two 8oz. tubs and two bags of pita chips (that’s half filled with air) that would cost me over $10! That’s not a snack price, that’s  meal price! So what did I do? I went back to the deli section and put everything back for those who may want to enjoy with some of the additives and whatnot and picked up some a pack of traditional pita bread went over to the canned vegetable aisle and got two cans of chickpeas and off to the check out counter. All the other ingredients I have at home in the fridge and the pantry. I was on my way to some real food happiness! Food is happiness to me just like some good music, your favorite outfit, pair of shoes or song. Good food makes me feel at ease, at peace with me, the world and those around me.


If you live or visit Metro Atlanta drive out to Loganville and  visit Athena’s Greek Cuisine & Mediterranean Bakery, 706 Athens Hwy. 78, Loganville, GA 30052 770.554.7400. I know the owner and the food is exceptional! I buy my hummus and tabbouleh there if I don’t make my own. Also  visit the Mediterranean Grill with two additional locations around metro Atlanta;  2126 North Decatur Road, Decatur, GA 30033 404.320.0101. The owner is a former chef They have great portion sizes and the lunch combination plate is very good. Its well know amongst the local business and Emory university crowd!

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