Posted in Daily, Food

Hummus: From “Then” to “Now”

From parties to the routine meals or for the dieters as well as snack food for the cravings time after work or before the ” big meal”, this dip has been popular across the world. Little wonder then that with International Hummus Day ( May 13th) gone by, one mayn’t know enough about this dip.

Known as “Hummus” or “hummus bi tahini”, this Levantine dip or spread, is made from cooked or mashed chickpeas or other beans, blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic. The word “Hummus” comes from the Arabic word meaning “chickpeas”. However likely from the Greek origins, hummus a part of the local cuisine in both Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities, it is known as “humoi” . While originally placed in the Middle East and Mediterranean cuisine, today it has been featured in many local cuisine and recipes around the globe.

While there are a number of different theories and claims of origins in various parts of the Middle East and the Mediterranean, there is insufficient evidence to determine the exact or precise details. The basic ingredients of chickpeas, sesame, lemon, and garlic have been combined and eaten in their local cuisine over centuries. While some food historians believe that variations of this recipe were there during the ancient Egyptian civilizations where then chickpeas were widely eaten as cooked in stews and other hot dishes; they had also been a part of the Greek cuisine and cooking. However records of pureed chickpeas eaten cold with tahini do not appear before the Abbasid period in Egypt and the Levant.

Cookbooks of 13th century Cairo record recipes for dish resembling hummus bi tahina; like the recipe of a cold puree of chickpeas with vinegar and pickled lemons with herbs, spices, and oil, but no tahini or garlic.  Over the years variations exists in the amount of ingredients of the beans, chickpeas pureed as well as mixing of vinegar or olive oil, tahini as well as different spices, herbs or nuts, with or without garlic; made or served by rolling it out and letting it sit overnight. With trade playing a significant role in the spread and share of cuisines, hummus may be one among the numerous foods that had crossed over during the historical periods across the Middle East and the Mediterranean.

Being used as an appetizer or dip, or served with meals; hummus can be had in an numerous ways. It can be scooped with flatbread, such as pita or served as part of a meze (selection of appetizers) or as an accompaniment to falafel, grilled chicken, fish or eggplant as well as with tortilla chips or crackers. Hummus can be garnished with numerous available ingredients like chopped tomato, cucumber, coriander, parsley, caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms, whole chickpeas, olive oil, hard-boiled eggs, paprika, sumac, olives, pickles and pine nuts. It can also be topped by a mixture of fava beans or can be made with yogurt, butter and topped with pieces of toasted bread ( Jordan and Palestine areas).

There are many variations to the preparation of “hummus” with the various changes of civilizations, culture mixing as well as immigration. Variations like hummus with fried eggplant and boiled eggs, as a chickpea soup or hummus with traditional skhug hot sauce to name a few, are popular in their locale areas. Of recent, African cuisine have brought specialties such as Sudanese Hummus Darfur with eggs, tomatoes, and grated cheese. Many restaurants offer varieties of warm hummus which may be served as chick peas softened with baking soda along with garlic, olive oil, cumin and tahini or as “msabbaha” made of whole chick peas garnishing the tahini (lemon spiked) with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkling of paprika.

With hummus being gluten free, nut-free, dairy free as well as a perfect spread or dip for snacks, fresh fruits, bread, meat, pita chips and the like; it has gained widespread acceptance across many cultures and cuisines as well for the weight watchers, medical reasons or just for its’ own unique taste and blend. Making hummus isn’t just a work of ingredients but also of art and creativity. With its’ quick and easy preparation with locally available ingredients; “hummus” is something that everyone should try at least once in a lifetime.

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