Hummus. Yes, you saw it right. It is on my mind. For me, hummus is quintessential Israel. I know, it’s political, I know that there’s a debate as to where hummus came from, who does it belong to, what’s authentic… However, for me, what Israelis have done with hummus is what makes it Israeli.
First of all, it is not the bland, pasty spread most Americans are familiar with as they wonder what the big deal is with hummus. And they would be right! Israeli hummus is creamy, lemony, with a hint of smoky cumin and the light aroma of garlic. More than that, throughout the country you can find many a Hummusia, where hummus is a canvas for so many added flavors. Whether you are in the mood for silky herbed Tunisian eggplant, the heat of Moroccan sautéed peppers, the comfort of Egyptian spiced fava beans or the heartiness of Lebanese style ground beef, lamb or even Shawarma chicken – you’re in luck! The whole of Israel’s immigrant community vies for a spot on that plate.
Hummus serves as the vessel to carry all those flavors, as they all join in happy matrimony with the swipe of your freshly baked, tender pita. With the addition of some pickles and possibly a sweet finish of Malabi, or K’naffe – you have a satisfying meal that reflects the mosaic that is the Israeli society.
The Blue Bus in Pardes Hannah, just south of Haifa is one such joint that we frequent when visiting family. Small, a little cramped and very casual, it offers a limited but typical Hummusiah menu. The hummus is warm and glossy with a dollop of Tehinah and the toppings are listed on a hastily drawn menu. Everything is made fresh to order with a side of Israeli chopped salad, some pickles and olives and of course – s’chug (Yemenite fiery sauce). It is as authentic a taste of Israel as you can get.
So, this Yom Ha’atzmaut, create your own Hummusiah experience at home and celebrate Israeli style!