As a kid growing up in Philadelphia and later in South Jersey, I’d hide my mother’s hummus whenever she’d packed it for lunch because kids were relentless. As I’d open my lunch bag, I’d hear, “That looks like vomit” and “Ewww, what is that stuff Susan’s eating?”
Now, thirty years later, those same kids are parents themselves, packing hummus for their own children, lovingly tucking in carrot sticks and chia-seed whole-wheat crackers to use for dipping.
How the tables have turned.
Recently, I was in the supermarket when I saw a display of tubs of hummus, in the refrigerated section. Earlier that morning, I’d seen single-serving Sabra containers, with pretzels, in my college’s cafeteria. As an Arab American, I should be happy that my country has finally embraced this staple of the Middle Eastern diet, right? Americans love this vegan-friendly, high –protein, gluten-free food – and, even though the store-bought stuff really doesn’t taste very good, consumers are willing to pay a lot of money for it.
And this is probably what bothers me the most. In addition to the fact that Sabra and other brands simply do not taste good or authentic, these companies have “gentrified” a common and inexpensive staple of the Middle Eastern diet (Sabra in particular is problematic for some consumers as it has long been on the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement’s list). Hummus is not gourmet food – it’s a delicious, but essentially cheap, source of protein, and when combined with the essential tahine (sesame seed paste), provides healthy fat in your diet as well. It’s not supposed to be expensive. It’s not supposed to be packed with preservatives so it can sit on your supermarket shelves for a month. It’s most definitely not supposed to be combined with ingredients like chocolate, or taco seasoning, or pumpkin (although, hey, who am I to judge?).
April is Arab American Heritage Month (really, look it up). I thought to myself last week that many people will probably buy hummus as part of their office events, class parties, or other celebrations. But they wouldn’t be getting real hummus. So I tweeted out, as a joke, “April is Arab American Heritage Month. Please celebrate it by NOT buying Sabra hummus. Message me for the super-secret, super-authentic recipe.”
My Twitter message inbox was quickly flooded as people took me up on the offer. Over four hundred people, and many of them have responded that their efforts led to success – it was easy and fast and delicious, just like I’d promised. In exchange, several offered me their own family recipes, and I am now thrilled to be in possession of authentic recipes for Irish soda bread, Mexican flan, Hawaiian poke, and champorado (a Filipino chocolate rice porridge), among many others.
We need to have a party, y’all.
Here’s the recipe, for you. Feel free to experiment and make it your own. And Happy Arab American Heritage Month. Sahtein!
Super-Authentic Hummus Recipe (Credit for this recipe goes to my Mother, Grandmothers, and Great-Grandmothers who will be upset that I am recommending canned chickpeas instead of fresh ones)
-8 oz. can of chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
-2 tbsp tahine (sesame seed paste)
-2 tbsp lemon juice
-pinch of salt
-1 tsp ground cumin
-½ cup of water
-1 tbsp olive oil
-pinch of paprika
-pita bread, wheat crackers, or vegetables
I recommend using a food processor or Nutri-bullet style appliance; a blender works fine too, but you might have to add more water to thin it out.
What To Do:
1. Combine the chick peas, tahine, lemon juice, salt, cumin, and water in the processor. Blend the ingredients together until you have a creamy texture.
2. Use a clean spoon to taste your hummus. Add anything else that seems to be missing. Maybe more salt? More lemon? It’s your hummus, so make it the way you like it!
3. This hummus is now your “base.” You can add anything else you like. Roasted red peppers? Black olives? Shredded carrots? Walnuts? Garlic? Do it!
4. Remove your hummus and spread onto a flat plate. Drizzle the olive oil over it and sprinkle with paprika to decorate. Eat with pita bread, crackers, or veggies!
Susan Muaddi Darraj won the American Book Award in 2016 for “A Curious Land: Stories from Home.” Her children’s chapter book series, “Farah Rocks,” stars a Palestinian American girl as the lead character; it will be published by Capstone Books in January 2020. Visit her website and follow her on Twitter: @SusanDarraj. Check her out at the CityLit Festival on April 27.