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Hummus: A War Through the Ages

 

Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it… or so the saying goes. Well, that might not be so bad if it’s as tasty as this tantalizing tale. Surprisingly, there is quite a bit to know about chickpeas, and more particularly hummus. For example, did you know that the word chickpea is translated as ‘Al-hams’ in Modern Standard Arabic? It’s likely that the word ‘humus’ has been derived over time from the word ‘hams,’ which is pronounced more like ‘hums’ in Arabic. Oh, and you’ve never heard about the great hummus wars – bloodless, but nonetheless pivotal in the shaping of national identity (yep, no hummus-sides prosecuted here).

It seems that the lowly chickpea, when ground and mixed with a secret blend of herbs and spices, may be something spurring a rivalry akin to the polarized U.S. political climate. This level of conflict is serious business when a country, in this case Lebanon, wants to claim a food product as a national trademark. A process not too dissimilar to what Greece did with Feta Cheese and France with Champagne. Fortunately, this grueling conflict could easily be settled by cozying up with the opposing sides and sharing a dish of deliciousness. If only.

As happens with many foods, immigrants tend to introduce their culinary fingerprint into the cultures they adopt. While chickpeas have been around since ancient times, the earliest mention of the mash-up we call hummus can be claimed by the Egyptians around the 13th century. Although the Arabic word for “chickpea” is Al-hams, it takes a few more local ingredients from the region to adopt them into a form that transforms. In addition to pureed chickpeas, hummus is most often composed of lemons, sesame seeds, garlic, salt, and olive oil, all best eaten with foods where ingredients can be gleaned fresh. While it may be most enjoyed by overlooking the Great Pyramid, there are few spots in the world where good hummus cannot be found. It is that simple a recipe.

In the grab-and-go world we have assumed, hummus may just be the perfect food. This gluten-free, nut-free, and dairy-free spread is packed with fiber, vitamins, and lots of other scrumptiousness. Often served as a healthy, filling snack, hummus can be paired with just about anything – a few crackers, veggies, or Taza’s own crispy pita chips. The results of a simple hummus recipe, such as Hala’s very own Garlicky Hummus, are not only power-packed but sure to delight.

Still not convinced that hummus should be your go-to snack? Here is one more reason: hummus is crazy healthy. Chickpeas, as it turns out, contain a lot of fiber, complex carbohydrates, iron, folate, phosphorus and B vitamins. These nutrients prove particularly helpful for those who follow vegetarian and vegan diets. Better yet, the high protein count in hummus is known to cut food cravings, subsequently assisting with weight management efforts! Other rumored effects of hummus? Reduced cancer risk, good for heart health, and lower cholesterol.

“Bean counters” may be interested in the fact that hummus dominates a $1billion food market. In a go-big-or-go-home bid for a Guinness World Record, in 2015, a group of chefs attempted to make a 15-ton serving in Abu Gosh, Israel. When amid security concerns, the Irish judges from Guinness declined to attend the gathering, the record set by Lebanon in 2010 of 23,042lbs 12oz still officially stands. One wonders who ate all of that. And so, the wars continue.

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