Though relatively young and poor in content compared with it’s older Hebrew brother, The Hummus Blog is getting lots of attention these days. Over the comments at one of the sites who talked about us, someone said something like “Americans don’t know shit about hummus”.
This is a bit harse, but it’s true that many Americans know little about hummus. Love it, maybe, but pretty ignorant about it.
After surfing hundreds of hummus-related web pages, my conclusions regarding the American hummus culture aren’t very flattering. When coming across statements like “hummus is the next salsa” I am truly appalled.
And sure, you can dip carrots in it – but you can dip them in a soup as well. This doesn’t make hummus a dip. It’s not a side dish – it’s the main course people!
In Israel, as well as some Arab countries, there are thousands of hummus restaurants (“hummusiot”) which serve traditionally made hummus, falafel, tahini and other related dishes. Non of them refer hummus as a dip, serve it with “pita triangles” or mix it with red chili.
!In most Arab restaurants, hummus is a only one of the courses – but it is also, by all means, a stand-alone dish. When served and eaten with some vegetable salad, good hummus can certainly make a complete meal – nutritionally and culinarily.
Packaged hummus, in the chilled version, is also popular in Israel. But everybody here knows it is merely a substitute – an insight which most Americans lack, I’m afraid.
Another thing: garbanzo beans, although closely related to middle-eastern chickpeas, are far from ideal for making hummus. It react differently to cooking, making the final texture different.
Another issue is the quality of tahini. In the middle-east there’s a rich supply of raw tahini products. Dozens of brands, some of which are great, others horrible – but there’s a choice. In the US, from what I’ve been told, there is very little choice between mostly mediocre tahini products (They say AlWadi is a decent tahini, and you can find it around New-York).
So I guess there’s a long way to go until Americans could understand how hummus has become the center of an Israeli sub-culture. Or how come it is the most eaten dish in a some middle-eastern populations. That’s a challenge for us, of course.