Think of coffee enthusiasts if you want to understand Israelis’ never-ending quest for the ultimate hummus. Also known as the chickpea or garbanzo bean, hummus is its Arabic name, which Israelis prefer over the Hebrew himtza. The apparent etymology suggests that the Arabic word originated from the Hebrew hometz (sour, vinegar). It’s a fitting name, considering that this bean quickly spoils and turns sour after grinding.
Meir Shalev, one of Israel’s foremost novelists, has posited that the “vinegar” mentioned in Ruth 2:14 – “dip your piece of bread in the vinegar” – is actually hummus. Shalev argues that dipping bread in vinegar for lunch makes little sense, while eating hummus at that time of day would be far more reasonable. Those who have eaten hummus know that it satiates the stomach for many hours. Arab fishermen from Acre to this day consume a large serving of hummus before setting out to sea for a long day’s work without food.
To learn more, I visited Yosef Hummus, one of the top hummus joints in the...
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