The beauty of hummus lies in its simplicity. This cool, smooth dish of chickpeas and tahini has been a staple food of the Levant since at least the 13th century. But, as with all things time-tested and unbroken, many have attempted to “fix” it.
Most egregiously in recent years, some chefs have been pushing a monstrosity called “dessert hummus,” imbuing the savory treat with the sweet promise of cavities. Today, on International Hummus Day, Jews, Arabs, Persians and all those who deem some things sacred, have drawn a line in the sand, stating once and for all that chocolate, peanut butter, cookie dough and, dear God, CINNAMON, have no place in their mezze.
Still, dessert hummus is far from the only indignity this creamy spread has endured in the food blogger era. Here are some of the worst offenses to our beloved blend of legume and sesame.
1. Paleo hummus
The paleo diet wants you to eat like a cave-dweller, and so nixes the whole legume family. Of course, those enduring this pre-civilization regimen still crave hummus. Introducing “Creamy Cauliflower Hummus,” which subs in in that pale, broccoli-like stalk for chickpeas, which, we are told, “tastes almost exactly the same as authentic hummus.” We’re skeptical.
2. The Trader Joe’s line of “artisan” hummuses
Jews love hummus. Jews love pickles. Dill pickle hummus is a travesty of such a magnitude that we can’t believe the late Joe Coulombe let it slide. But this variant is not an outlier. While one could make the case that the pickle hummus is, for a Diaspora Jew who spent some time on a kibbutz, a relatively homogenous dish, the mad scientists at Trader Joe’s have produced some unseemly Frankenfusions. Spicy avocado hummus? We’ll stick to guac, thanks.
3. Pea hummus
Hummus should never be a sickly shade of green. And yet, there is a profusion of recipes that suggest you, dear reader, blend some peas into your hummus. Why do people insist on foisting peas into otherwise fine dishes? This is the New York Times Guacamolegate all over again.
4. Barbecue hummus
A thought experiment: If Theseus’ ship retains none of its original planks, is it still the same ship? If you remove chickpeas and tahini from hummus, is it still hummus? Hard no on that last one. This recipe use a white bean base with a chili powder kick. What’s going on here, people? Why are you dragging hummus into this and smearing its good name. Just call this “barbecue pureed bean veggie dip” or something and call it a day.
6. Honorable mentions: Hummus sculptures
Then there’s this… @JohnKerry sculpted out of hummus? Why? https://t.co/ha6Sm1XH1g— Johnny Kunza (@johnkunza) May 13, 2020
In 2004 and 2005, Kosherfest, an annual trade fair for the kosher food industry, hosted two VIPs made entirely out of hummus. In October of ‘04, John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee was carved into hummus and our nightmares. (Given his Heinz connection, ketchup would be the better medium.) In ‘05, the folks at Sabra commissioned Kirk Rademaker to make a bust of then-New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg. Both attempts, while valiant, proved that hummus, even in its sublime simplicity, has its limitations.
PJ Grisar is the Forward’s culture fellow. He can be reached at Grisar@Forward.com.