I was recently complaining about the Americanization of hummus to family and friends. When I heard the word “hummus” pronounced on a cooking show as though it came out of the American Midwestern lexicon, I froze in dismay. “It’s Israeli, for goodness sakes,”  I told the TV.   Trying to teach Jewish kids how to pronounce Hebrew gutturals is equally as challenging, so I took this on as my one woman mission to both get my students to pronounce the guttural “het” in Hebrew, and to get them to honor the Middle Eastern nature of this cuisine, by pronouncing the word hummus with at least a little effort to say the guttural first letter and the “u” as “oo” and not “uh”.

But then, on a recent interfaith religious leaders’ trip to Israel, Christian colleagues who had just visited Lebanon on their way to Israel remarked that Israeli food really originates from Lebanon.  We smiled at how much of the region’s food is shared — yet possessively lauded as unique — by so many cultures, peoples and countries of the Middle East.  Hummus is probably at the top of that list.  (And by the way, I bristle at the definition of hummus as “chickpea paste”;  it’s so much more than that!)

So, I read with interest the story posted today by the AP, on the NPR website (following the airing of it on NPR) of the following:

Israel Bests Lebanon In War Fought With Chickpeas   by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=122363267&sc=17&f=1001

On my recent Israel trip, I made the mistake of responding to a chatty taxi driver in Jerusalem by asking him to give me his opinion on the best hummus in Israel. I explained that this is a little competition in my family– my son likes Abu Ghosh the best, but so far, I have not found anything to equal the hummus in Akko’s old city.  Maybe it exists, but I haven’t found it. My cab driver asserted that his mother makes the best there is and started driving me to her house instead of my hotel.  It took quite a bit of convincing to get him to drive straight to the hotel — I was just asking out of curiosity!

Ah, so one more lesson in how personally folks take their hummus!  (Not the mention a lesson about the cab drivers in the region, but that’s a tale for another day.)

So, upon reading the AP story from NPR, I have an idea. How about all the adversaries in the region make a super huge hummus dish — even bigger than the satellite dish concoction in Abu Ghosh (see the story), and bigger than the ones being made in Lebanon to best the Israelis. But one that will bring together everyone’s recipes, everyone’s stories, everyone’s mother and father, and enough to share with a crowd of representatives of each group. Together, they can share bread and hummus and  stories —  and love of their region, their lands, their people, and life.  And peace.

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