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Not Hummus

January 6, 2015

Coming back from vacation is hard. It’s hard to get back into the regular routines. And for me, it’s also hard to stop eating like a jerk. It doesn’t help that I brought back a chunk of scrapple, a bunch of kielbasa and sauerkraut, some local knockwurst, and a few other meaty treats from the Keystone State.

You probably don’t want to hear any more about my gorging on fatty foods. And frankly, I don’t want to talk about it. I just want to take my meats into a quiet corner and scarf them down in silence and shame.

Someday soon I’ll get back to my regular diet of whole grains and legumes.

It’s probably unlikely that anyone has the patience to read another free form food rant like yesterday’s tirade on sprinkles. But speaking of legumes, there is something I have to share that makes me irrationally angry.

Red Lentil Hummus.

Hopefully someone out there is good with Arabic, because I’m trusting the Internet here, and that’s a dangerous thing to do. If I’ve done this right, this is the word hummus -> حمّص.

You’ll never guess what it means. Okay, I’ll tell you. It means chickpeas.

Chickpeas, dammit. There can be no black bean hummus, no fava bean hummus, and there is certainly no such thing as red lentil hummus. You can make some lovely bean spreads and purees with garlic, lemon and olive oil. But these are not hummus.

And there is one other thing. The dish hummus is different than the legume hummus. The dish is technically called حمّص بطحينة or hummus bi tahina, aka chickpeas with tahini. Tahini is a finely ground sesame paste. And when it’s fresh, it’s magnificent. But jars of this marvelous oily condiment have a bad habit of turning rancid. And some can be bitter. Which is why it’s so important to find a good brand of the stuff.

I haven’t been able to find the Israeli Oxygen brand tahini I fell in love with during our sabbatical. But the Roland isn’t a bad substitute in a pinch.

Anyhow, far too many producers try to sell a tahini-free version of hummus. That’s like trying to sell a pesto that’s made without olive oil. It’s horribly, horribly wrong.

Just stop it, people. Please.

Can we for just a few moments respect the culinary traditions of other cultures? You can’t make a banh mi into a wrap, because it’s a sandwich that is defined by the bread from which it’s made. The classic Italian carbonara isn’t a cream sauce, it’s an egg and cheese sauce. Tuscany is a place with a regional cuisine based on bread, beans and olive oil, and it’s horrifying to see its name slapped on anything vaguely Italian. Paella isn’t just rice with stuff in it–sure it has regional variations throughout Spain–so if you want to make it, choose one of those and the dish will be fabulous.

I could go on. But I’ll stop. For now. Thank you for letting me get that off my chest.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. EPT permalink
    January 6, 2015 11:09 am

    All in all a good rant. Hummus is indeed chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil,S&P to taste. Some toasted pita bread and your good to go. Red lentils belong in Indian dal, black beans-probably Mexican and the rest…not hummus.

  2. Jenny permalink
    January 7, 2015 10:43 am

    Sorry. I just can’t get excited about this one. I love traditional Hummus and eat it in great quantities. But I also enjoy a Hummus with tahini and red lentils on occasion for variety. Maybe it is not authentic Hummus. Just like the abomination of pizza dough covered with Buffalo sauce and chicken is not authentic Pizza. But if I recall correctly, that was your top rated pizza in the TOP. How do you determine which culinary traditions are okay to modify (such as Pizza) and which are sacrosanct (as in this case, Hummus)?

    • January 7, 2015 10:47 am

      Great question! It’s going to take a few hundred words to answer. But I’m looking forward to writing my reply soon.

      • January 13, 2015 11:09 am

        I gotta say, I am kind of with Jenny on this one.

        Personally, my answer to her – because there are things I am a lunatic about too – is…it just boils down to whats important to you. What you love in a way that makes you feel protective of it. In reality red lentil hummus may not be actual hummus, but the spread is similar, and the word is familiar in our culture – so it makes sense to use it to describe the product…but I agree that is is probably technically incorrect.

        It is similar to me freaking out whenever I see a Chicago Dog on a menu and its not on a poppy seed bun. What the!!? Obviously this is a minor detail – one that probably is imperceptible on the palate because of the heap of other stuff going on – yet it breaks my heart when I see a ‘Chicago Dog’ without it.

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