I am just back from travelling in The Holy Land and entrusted myself with the propitious task of finding the best hummus money can buy. Sometimes spelt houmous, hummous, hoummos, humos hommus and hommos… not to be confused with….. the dish has been around for millennia.
But why does hummus matter? It’s just a blend of chickpeas and sesame, lemon and garlic – often garnished with any of these: ful (fava beans), parsley, cumin, paprika, hot pepper sauce, eggs, pickles and usually with a big glug of olive oil. It matters because it is a huge common denominator in a region that desperately needs common denominators!
Hummus is a dish that is eaten by all literally, throughout the troubled region – known as the Middle East. Everyone seems to love hummus. I queued with Jews and Muslims alike to get into Abu Hassan – a famous hummus eatery in Jaffa. This eponymous hummus destination has been around for almost 60 years and was bustling with all sorts and showed how when eating hummus – everyone can get on just fine, it’s just when they stop and get up you get the problems……..
I met a ‘Political Adviser’ from the US State Department who was attached to the US Consulate in Jerusalem. The peace process he was out there to broker had fallen as flat as a pitta bread. He was not sure when both sides were going to get back around the table. He was not eating hummus at the time, but he should have been. I mentioned that the peace process needed to focus on things we all had in common, not on the things that separate us – no wonder the prospect of peace in the Middle East currently looks like a pipe dream.
Of course the other issue that was bothering me and took my time as I used pre-historic bandwidth to try to download my daily and ritualised dosages of media was the UK General Election. Our problems here in the UK look insignificant to those in the Middle East. It certainly looks like politicians from all sides are going to be doing a lot of sitting together amongst the new landscape of British politics. Then it struck me! In 2001, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook declared that “Chicken Tikka Massala is now a true British national dish, not only because it is the most popular, but because it is a perfect illustration of the way Britain absorbs and adapts external influences.” It did not get lost on me that given the ever-changing tapestry of the UK population it will not be long before hummus becomes our national dish – but please can whoever serves it up remember – it is a dish best served warm!