I am munching on carrot sticks and celery with some bleu cheese dressing. This is not my usual style but sometimes, it is my only option. I make a face at the sharp taste of the off-white dressing, wondering if there was anything else in the fridge that would make my official diet snack more appetizing.
At a first glance, I see nothing remarkable. A bottle of Heinz tomato ketchup, a few sachets of soy sauce that came with the Chinese takeout I had ordered a week ago, a jar of store-bought green chutney that my grandmother wouldn’t touch with a broomstick—nope, I am definitely in dire need to go grocery shopping.
But just then, at the very back of the bottom shelf, I spot the man of the moment, a small, half-consumed cup of Sabra’s roasted red pepper Hummus “Mmmmm,” my mouth waters involuntarily even though I am not actually hungry. But there is a reason I prefer to shop at Torrid and not Hollister. I sit down for my second mid-morning snack. Carrot sticks have definitely never tasted this good. Why on earth did I even consider bleu cheese as an option when Hummus exists on planet Earth!
For me, Sabra’s hummus is good enough for now.
But to be honest, that is only because I cannot have Fatemah’s homemade goodness every day.
“I’d make it for you every day,” Fatemah says as she packs some for me in an old Tupperware box. “Just don’t ask me to add strange things to it.”
My friend is a purist. Her dad is a Mizrahi Jew from Syria. Her mom’s family has lived in Jerusalem for generations (they even have the names of the last twelve sets of great-grandparents.) Needless to say, with such strong roots, her hummus is something to reckon with.
“Strange things?” I ask, thinking about how she would react to my affinity for flavored hummus. I hope she is talking about some other “strange things…” like chocolate and Kahlua (Yep, I’ve seen people add those to hummus).
But she confirms my worst fear.
“Yes, strange things that belong in a salsa or a salad,” she answers. “…like jalapenos, spinach, artichokes, pine nuts, roasted red peppers…” she continues to list them out. But the ground is shaking beneath my feet.
“No roasted red peppers?” I whisper, unable to believe my ears.
“Yep, none of that stuff,” she says dismissively. “All you’re allowed is a sprinkle of paprika and olive oil when you serve it. Other than that, Hummus is perfect by itself. It does not need these gimmicks. Please don’t tell me you have been ruining my hummus with your own additions.”
“Of course not,” I retort, offended that she would even think I could commit such sacrilege. “But Sabra’s flavored hummus tastes really good.”
“Sure, it does,” She answers. “But nothing can beat a good, homemade recipe that has been passed down for generations.”
“Do you mind telling me?” I ask.
She doesn’t. And I am beyond surprised to learn that the secret of her absolutely perfect hummus is nothing but freshly ground chickpeas, extra virgin olive oil, cumin powder, homemade tahini, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and a hint of garlic. “But there is something else,” she whispers conspiratorially, “My mom would never approve but I do add just a pinch of sugar and just about 10 to 15 peanuts to it.
“Really?” I ask her. “That’s it?”
“Of course, it’s not rocket science,” she says, dumbfounded that I had been expecting something grander.
I nod as if I understand, but I am still confused and a little bit shocked. Now that I know what goes into her hummus, I have to make it myself.
It takes me close to an hour to get it all done. I don’t have the luxury of fresh chickpeas so I use a 29 Oz. can of Goya. Fatemah probably never does this, but hey, I am a poor student whose usual idea of dinner consists of boxed mac ‘n’ cheese.
I drain the chickpeas and put them in the blender along with ¼th cup of freshly made tahini (this was easy because I had a whole packet of sesame seeds lying around), the juice of two medium-sized lemons, 15 peanuts, two cloves of garlic, half a teaspoon of cumin powder, a teaspoon of salt, three tablespoons of the olive oil, and a pinch of sugar that is Fatemah’s innovation to an age-old recipe.
By this time, my kitchen smells nice (or maybe it is my imagination) and I feel like I’ve accomplished something. Before I take it out into a bowl, I must taste it. I scoop some up with my finger and oh…Nutty, creamy, explosive… I’ve never been so proud of myself. I’m almost as proud as that ice-cream seller in Wonder Woman who was complimented by the woman of gold herself.
As I pour the creamy, slightly coarse mixture out of the blender, I can’t help but think that this is one of the easiest (and most rewarding) things I’ve ever done. It is not so much about the recipe as it is about the flavor of tradition. I have been allowed in on a secret which is now mine to cherish as well.
As an avid foodie, I know how to cook a perfect biryani and the fluffiest stuffed soufflé omelets in my family. But like an idiot, I had been purchasing hummus from the market all these years, not realizing that the beauty of this perfect dip is in its simplicity and just getting the proportions right. It is dinnertime and almost by habit, I reach for the box of instant pasta in the cupboard. But hey, who said I can’t have hummus and crackers for dinner. I close the cupboard and head to our makeshift pantry. I am certain I had bought crackers a few days ago. I can’t seem to find them.
I can probably still go back to the mac ‘n’ cheese.
But… nah! Who wants bland, tasteless, make-you-gag cheap cheese pasta when there’s homemade hummus to be had!
It is not yet 9 pm. Rite Aid is only two blocks away. I put on my shoes and get ready for a walk. I will have my crackers. It takes me less than ten minutes to get to the store. I pick the plainest, blandest crackers I can find in order to pair them up with my delightful, flavorful hummus.
I stop for a moment at the aisle for refrigerated items and while I usually pick a box of Sabra’s hummus, today, I only need to get my usual quota of Greek yogurt. It takes me almost no time to get back. I switch on my computer, log into my Netflix account and plonk myself on my bed with my bowl of hummus and an entire plate of crackers and a few carrots (for health reasons, duh!)
Is it me or does Gossip Girl seem spicier than usual?
Ha! It is the hummus…