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Of Hummus, Sweets and Peace

Sharon, a good friend, brought us these lovely looking Syrian sweets last week. She just came back from an Arab-Israeli gathering, held in Jordan, where they discussed some regional ecology issues, especially water issues.

Syrian sweets

A few days back, I told Sharon about a high-school student who contacted me recently, and asked if she could conduct a survey among the readers of my Hebrew Hummus Blog. She’s making a film about hummus places and their role as places where Arabs and Israelis meet. She wanted to ask my readers if they think hummus is helping use in getiing closer.

The guys in the convention, mostly academicians like Sharon, thought that writing a blog about hummus is a funny idea. And they were especially emmused with the idea of hummus as a peacemaker, Sharon says.

I wonder if they would still laughing if I could take them to Abu Hassan in Jaffa, or to Said in Acre, places where – like in their convention – people gather around tables with all seriousness, dealing with issues of great importance.

The Syrian sweets were good, although probably not as good as the freshly made baklava served in Damascus, were some pretty good hummus places are said to be.

That’s what I usually have as desert anyway, when eating in Arab hummus places. And I should tell you: there’s nothing like that “high”. The euphoric peace-of-mind you experience when you are full with good hummus, drinking black coffee and eating these sweets (whether it is baklava, malabi, burma or katayef – all of which I will write about, and give you recipes on future posts).

So yes, it’s sad how in this point in time we only get to communicate through cellophane wrapped candies. One day, hopefully in my time, it would be different.

BUT, as I already stated before: it’s common knowledge that people will go a long way for their beloved hummus. Adding the desert thing to that, I think there’s great potential here.

5 Comments on Of Hummus, Sweets and Peace

  1. Occi Dentist // February 20, 2008 at 9:30 am // Reply

    Oh, orientalism and occidentalism at the same time, doing their best to stereotype the two communities.

    here’s a newsflash for this enterprenuering student:
    * eating not only hummus but a nearly exact mirror of the rest of the populace’s food did very little to help the political status of jews in arab countries. that’s an understatement and i’ll not exapnd because this blog deals with hummus and not with politics.
    * the view of hummus (or of arab cuisine in general) as an representative of arab culture is demeaning and insulting. there’s much more to cultural exchange than eating similar foods. if you want to think positive, consider arab musical influences. if you want to think negative, think of how arabic knowledge is lost among new generations of second and third generation to jews born in arab countries. but for god’s sake, leave the hummus alone!

    there, i had to vent off some steam.

  2. I’m sorry but I have to agree .
    Napoleon said : ” The army marches on its stomach”(roughly meaning , give the soldiers good food and they’ll conquer the world for you ).

    I believe in an ideal world food could bring people together and what better
    food than Hummus , but in the real world too many people are too full of misconceptions …

    Food is definitely part of culture and a great way to start cultural exchange but many people are not into that .

    On travel forums like Lamtayel there’s the perenial question : should you eat in local restaurants ? or in Israeli restaurants ?

    Living in Asia for a long time , when I go to Bangkok I really like to go and eat Hummus , and on my last visit some points crystalised :
    In Chabad Bangkok there are some really nice people who welcome Israelis
    and even opened a Kosher restaurant.(Despite previous experiences several years ago) I ordered Hummus – the thing that arrived at best would be called “pseudo hummus”,in Israel no one would dare to sell something like that , but I said what the hell , I’ll eat it. The taste(probably because I was hungry) somewhat resembled bad hummus,but they had good olive oil so I ate the thing.
    The next day , after complaining to many of the regular customers there , I talked to the restaurant manager : ” How can we make better hummus here ?”
    I asked him to which he replied : read an extra Tehilim chapter everyday …

    Several new Israeli restaurants opened and I went to try the hummus in all of them – mediocre to less then mediocre to bad . The reason as allways – Tahina shortage …

    Than I went to my favorite of several years ago : Sara Restaurant – the hummus was even better then it used to be – delicious , but the restaurant’s empty .

    I tried bringing people over from Chabad and from the other restaurants and everybody(the regulars) refused to come … why ? The owner of Sara is Muhammad from Hebron …

    So here you have it : Israelis complaining about bad to terrible hummus in BKK
    and how much they miss hummus but refuse to go and eat hummus from an Arab in the same street ……..

    The Hummus , Falafel , shchnitzel , are excellent there but the place is empty.
    The tourists don’t even know about it , and the Israeli long term stayers preffer to continue complaining about the bad hummus in the other places rather than go and eat real one .

    Next time I’ll write how I was attacked by bad hummus in a Lebanese restaurant in Phnom Penh Cambodia.

  3. Dror,
    The best thing to do, in my opinion, is to write inline reviews on such places as Sara restaurant. There are always desperate tourists looking for good hummus who will appreciate the tip and will love to go there. Let the long term stayers go on complaining.

  4. Hi Shooky ,

    What’s an “inline review ” ?

    Personally , I would have loved it if food could bring people together
    same like you , and when people are open minded , they can become friends
    over food … (and I have at least 2 such friends here in Cambodia – Jad from Bt Lehem , and Muhammad Nadeem from Pakistan)

    But for example , I was almost assasinated at a certain Lebanese restaurant in Phnom Penh (there’s only 1 Lebanese restaurant there …)
    I heard about it from a different Palestinian friend – Baset – and well , offcourse I was intrigued , and even though my hummus is considered “championship hummus” I had to go and try the food there …
    I went to eat there 3 times and each time the food was worse … and expensive
    It’s beautifully decorated , and I thought , well , it’s a new restaurant and we should give it a chance …

    There was no Nasseralla poster on the wall , beautifull white maps and wine glasses , and many posters of different places in Lebanon . And nice modern Arabic music that put you in the right mood .

    On my last visit , I talked in Arabic with the owner , seemed like a nice guy ,
    the hummus arrived together with my friend Gaby so we started wiping it together … and both og us spat together .
    Bad = spoiled/sour/dangerous hummus !
    at least 4 days old , with a bad smell and taste …

    Offcourse we sent it back to the kitchen , and asked for a different one .
    The same one came back out with more olive oil and parsely on the top …

    We left .

    I’m not sure what is worse ? Lebanese trying to assasinate Israelis with bad hummus ? or a beautifull Lebanese ” ÿaani French” style restaurant selling
    salads that aren’t fresh ?!?!?

    Simply shame on them ! I view it as sacrilege to give unsuspecting people bad hummus like that ! The owner and cook both did not come out of the kitchen either .

    An other thing – I don’t see hummus causing such a stir among Arabs as it does among Israelis , it’s just one more salad/first course where as for many Israelis it is the king of all foods .

    So how about : Hummus in the Far East special ?

  5. I think it kind of worked for the Italians in Switzerland. To understand that you have to know that maybe fifty years ago or so more and more Italians came to work in Switzerland in low-paid jobs. At that time Italian food wasn’t common in Switzerland. Italians were often discriminated, Swiss people called them Spagetthi-eaters and they didn’t mean it complimentary! But slowly they became more integrated and Italien food found its way in more and more Swiss households and restaurants. Nowadays the Italians are one of the best integrated minorities in Switzerland and some Italian staples like pizza and pasta became everyday food in Switzerland. So yes, I think that appreciating the food culture of a country and acceptance of that country can go hand in hand.

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