What is hummus? This question is asked by many people, not because they don’t know about the delicious dip made from chickpeas, olive oil, and a wide variety of spices, but because they want to know more about hummus history, and where it is from. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly where it originated, and there are some truly strange parts of history as well. The debate over where and when it was invented is still hotly debated to this day. Let’s just dive right in!
Where Did Hummus Originate? Where Does Hummus Come From? Those are Good Questions
No one really knows exactly where this unique dip originated. Historians know that it was probably somewhere in the Eastern Mediterranean area of the Middle East. But, it is a part of cuisines all over the world, including Egyptian, Greek, Turkish, Lebanese, and Syrian food. The name itself is Arabic for “chickpea,” but it is a symbol of many different regions. There are two major mentions of a similar food similar in ancient texts, but a few key ingredients of the humus we know today are missing:
One of the oldest mentions, and hints at where it is from is found in a Medieval cookbook called “Kita Wasf al-Atima al-Mutada”. Translated from Arabic, this means “The Description of Familiar Food.” The recipe in this cookbook varies a bit from modern recipes – it contains no garlic or lemon, and also includes vinegar. Another cookbook from the 13th century (Kitāb al-Wusla ilā l-habīb) has a recipe that includes chickpeas and lemons, but no tahini or garlic.
Mentions of the Dip We Know
In order to find this dip with the ingredients that would taste similar to what we know and love today, you would need to look back to 18th century Damascus, where the first written record of a recipe including chickpeas, garlic, tahini, and lemon is recorded. As you can see, it is quite difficult to answer the question, “where is hummus from?” directly, because it is such an ancient food, and there are so many different recipes and ways to make it, that vary in regions all over the world.
The Strange Part of Hummus History: World Records
Believe it or not, there are some strange parts of the history of our favorite dip, and they are on-going. A modern-day debate (a harmless and delicious one) is currently taking place. Many countries claim historical ownership over the origins, including Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Greece, Israel, Jordan, Palestine, and Egypt, to name a few. These debates are called “The Hummus Wars.” The food battle began with a world record in the Guinness World Book of Records – the largest vat ever recorded. The 4,532-pound plate of dip was made by the Lebanese. They wanted to show the world that it was Lebanese in origin – even going so far as to attempt to register the word “hummus” with the European Union (this ultimately was denied, as the EU determined it is the food of the entire region, not one specific area). This started a competition: A small village near Jerusalem reclaimed the world record for Israel by making a plate of dip that weighed 4 tons (it was served in a satellite dish, and was even visited by President Obama). The response from the Lebanese? A vat weighing 23,042 pounds. The lesson we can learn from the Wars is this: This dip plays an important role in many cultures, even if there is a great debate about the question, “where does hummus come from?”
Where Did Hummus Originate? Where is Hummus From?
Due to the on-going debates, we’re not going to venture a guess about exactly when it was invented, or where it originated. What we do know is this: We love it, and can’t get enough of its delicious flavors, no matter where we are in the world. It’s fantastic that so many countries can have a passion for something – humus unifies just as much as it divides. One restaurant owner in Palestine, Ali Abu Anas, says that “what distinguishes any hummus from another is nafs – which is ‘soul’ in Arabic.” We couldn’t agree more: It truly is soul food!