Chic peas: new art cookbook charts a history of hummus
On the Hummus Route traces a utopian track between cities, people, markets and dinner tables. It documents street food in nine Middle Eastern cities, including Cairo, Jerusalem, Gaza, Tel Aviv, Jaffa, and Damascus, and in doing so, offers a fascinating insight into the area’s design, food, and culture
Thirty different international chefs, researchers, photographers, illustrators and thinkers have lent their perspectives to the upmost of philosophical tasks: tracing the history of hummus. On the Hummus Route dives deeper than the crudités dish, exploring how the humble chickpea has sustained a synthesis of influences, carrying with it an important and varied cultural history.
At its heart, On the Hummus Route is a beautifully edited cookbook; rich with colourful recipes and food photography. A series of elevating essays, stories, interviews and street snapshots provide incisive context. ‘It follows an imaginary route that I envisioned in my mind’s eye between places, people, and dreams across the hummus capital of the Middle East,’ writes editor Dan Alexander (of the eponymous Paris-based design lab).
Along the way, we learn how chickpeas are roasted and sugar coated to be served as sweets at engagements in Iraqi and Persian Jewish communities. We discover the joy of growing chickpeas; digging trails, scattering seeds, watering seedlings and patiently waiting. We peruse ancient shopping lists, becoming privy to personal anecdotes. Israeli chef Nof Atamna-Ismaeel recalls her grandmother’s kitchen, where hundreds of golden peas rested, jewel-like, on cotton wool pods across the countertops.
Elsewhere, in an essay called ‘Angels in Gaza’, Anna-Marie Ravitzki touches on the taste-memory of eating falafel as a child. ‘When I was a little girl my mother and I would take bus number 40 and 42 to Jaffa just to eat falafel, then we would walk back home via Jerusalem Boulevard,’ she writes. ‘Today I sit on a rock in the South of France, the flies and mites roving around my face as I try to understand the words.’
In this essay, and the others compiled, ‘we discover that hummus is a culture in its own right’, Alexander continues. ‘Hummus has reinvented itself over and over again, always asking to be rediscovered.’ We just need to raise our collective head from the pita pocket to realise it. §