Happy National Hummus Day!

Happy National Hummus Day!

This year, let's celebrate the fact that people have been enjoying hummus for a very long time.

It's roots extend all the way back to the very beginning of agriculture. Chickpeas were domesticated in what's now Turkey around 7,000 BCE. Within a few hundred years, they'd spread across the Mediterranean world. Extremely dry chickpeas dated to around 6,800 BCE were found in a cave in Southern France. It's difficult to know exactly how they were eaten, but King Tut was interred with a jar of chickpeas and heads of garlic—so that wonderful combination dates to at least 1325 BCE. Lemons didn't make their way to Middle East until latter part of the first millenium, around 700 AD. So hummus must have been invented some time after.

The first known recipe for hummus dates to the 14th century cookbook, Kitab Wasf al-At'ima al-Mu'tada. Here's the recipe for "Himmas Kassa:"

Perhaps you can read medieval Arabic. I can't. Here's a translation:

"Take chickpeas and after they boil, pound them finely with vinegar, olive oil, tahini, black pepper, atraf teeb, mint, parsley and dried thyme. Add shelled walnut, hazelnut, almond, and pistachio, as well as Ceylon cinnamon, toasted caraway seeds, coriander seeds, salt, lemon preserved in salt, and olives. Pound. Stir to blend, and then spread on a plate and set aside overnight, and eat it. It will be wonderful, God willing."

(I appreciate the "God willing." I often feel that way about cooking too. Atraf teeb is a spice blend—had to look it up.)

So in its original form, Himmas Kassa was not as 'pasty,' and had a much richer set of flavors. We've occasionally been very lightly reproached for using flavors far outside of the Middle Eastern tradition, like Gochujang or Jamaican Jerk. But our 14th century cookbook author clearly worked with what was at hand and was willing to take chances.

The recipe and its translation are from the wonderful website of Iraqi food scholar Nawal Nasrallah. She's posted a modernized version of this recipe with correct proportions and amounts in case you're interested in going down that rabbit hole. I think I might be, though I'm not sure where I'll get my hands on atraf teeb.

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