Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Foods I Don't Get: Hummus

What's up with hummus? It seems that a certain segment of our society has gone gaga over hummus and I don't get it. It's ground beans. That's all it is. I don't recall ever hearing anyone say "you know what you've got to try? Refried beans". Couldn't we call that hummus? Or is hummus limited to the stylings of the garbanzo?

Look, I'm not bagging on hummus, it's fine. That's all it is. I go to the table at Whole Foods where Yummy is selling his various hummus varieties and I partake. I like the pita chip, it's really more of a toast though isn't it? Now I feel like Affleck in Armageddon debating the merits of a cracker and cookie. But if it's pita bread, wouldn't a baked version be toast? I think so. We should be calling them pita toasts, not chips. Oops, got off topic there. Anyway, I've had hummus more times than I can count and I just don't understand the hubbub.

Is it because hummus is foreign and it gives user a euphoria that they're better than anyone else because they "love" a foreign product. This same euphoria has been seen in the past in users of Corona, Heineken and Bass. Those products aren't better than other beers because they're foreign. I don't even think the evidence suggests those products are popular in their home countries, they just had good marketing in the US. I think hummus is the same way. It just has good marketing, it can only be found in more upscale establishments, yet not many ethnic ones.

Again, I don't hate hummus. I think it's fine. I just don't know what the difference is between hummus and Frito Lay bean dip. I think in a blind taste test where I laid out 2 varieties of hummus, a can of Old El Paso refried beans and a can of bean dip, you'd be hard pressed to tell me which is which. Is the garbanzo really that much of a superior bean to the pinto?

I know that hummus can incorporate other nice ingredients like pine nuts, red peppers, paprika etc. And I am sure that that I could find a hummus that I love. But, honestly, it seems like a whole bunch of work eating a bunch of hummus, something that is, at best, a good appetizer. I'm sure that you've had a really great hummus and it opened your mind to it. If I'd have had that hummus I'd feel about it the way that you do. But, in the end, 95% of all hummus is glorified refried beans. You can go on and on about how great hummus is and if you do, and you come to my house, I'm going to serve you some Taco Bell pintos and cheese and call it hummus, you'll never know the difference.

19 comments:

The DLC said...

I treat hummus as a condiment rather than a dip. I love it on falafel and similar sandwiches, but find it rather boring with plain pita or cut vegetables.

Chimpotle said...

My wife makes her own. I find this post somewhat amusing coming on the tail of your fellating of popped corn kernels.

KC Wort Hog said...

One horrible property most commercial hummus has is WAAAYYY TOO MUCH CUMIN. This falls in line with your comment on refried beans. Hummus with more than a smidge of cumin is pretty bad and I avoid it. The key flavors should really be the beans, lemon, and toasted sesame (and lots of salt). A dash of cumin - if any at all - is all you need to complement the key flavors.

And that's why I make my own.

m.v. said...

next to sushi hummus is the second most over-hyped food ever.I don't hate it,I just don't eat it. that and peanut butter.

Leigh Ann said...

Hummus is like manna to me. Lots of garlic, lemon, and olive oil. And a little tahini (sesame seed paste) and cayenne. Without those ingredients it IS refried beans. I'm not as bad as "the Zohan" about it but I was pretty close at one time, and had to choose between a diet of hummus or a slim figure. Now I save it for Holy Days, and dream about it regularly in the interim.

Faith said...

Ok, everyone realizes what refried beans are, right? Just checking, because hummus requires no frying of any sort. Just healthy, boiled beans. Either of the garbanzo or white variety. (I prefer a white bean/navy bean, personally.) Also, no lard! Woowoo!

It's like comparing hair gel and hair mousse. They do two completely different things. You know what I mean?

I prefer hummus on veggies, like cucumbers, carrots, and Leo likes it on celery. (Celery is my mortal enemy, or I might like it on that too!) Ooh, or on pretzels. Pita is good, but it's easy to go overboard with it, so I just avoid it all together.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you didn't have the hummus at the late, lamented Iliki, but I think you might have really liked that. Sublime. Hummus, to me is parallel to guacamole. Almost all guacamole is green goo, not worth my while. But really good guac is a transcendent experience. It's all in the recipe, and the subtleties the chef brings to the dish. Hope you eventually find a hummus that lights your fire. Those are few and far between.

jill said...

hummus has lots of olive oil, tahini (sesame paste) and garlic - and cumin. yum. grill some pita and make or get some good hummus...it's much better than old el paso. and very different.

Anonymous said...

Hummus=refried beans?! Sacrilege!!

Chef E said...

I read your blog and smile so much, I had to come say it- Love your blog!

I know, I do not get it as a chef either- why do they call every pureed kind of bean hummus? Creative license I guess...

Eliza Rose said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eliza Rose said...

As others have written, hummus is not simply mashed-up beans. A decent basic hummus also has tahini, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and salt. Variations abound, of course, when it comes to spices and flavors. Hummus is also not simply an upscale appetizer or condiment. It is a staple food in many places, served on a large plate or in a bowl garnished with olive oil and greens. Another interesting thing about hummus is that it is a complete protein when eaten with bread, rice, or another grain.
If you get commercially-prepared hummus, your reaction is going to vary incredibly depending on the brand. If there is any way you can try Holy Land hummus (made in Minnesota), please do. Holy Land makes different kinds, but the basic Hummus Tahini and Garlicy Hummus are classics. As a kid, I didn't "get" hummus either, but Holy Land changed my mind (and my eating habits) at a young age.

Sparkina said...

Hummus and refried beans are two different dishes, seasoned a different way, and both are plenty of tasty (I do a homemade hummus that's fit for a Roman emperor)

Anonymous said...

Hummus is so rad, dude. You can make it so good. You had whole foods hummus so I understand you dont know how great it could be. But man, the possibilities are endless. Kalamata hummus with extra fresh garlic is my favorite. Refried beans rule too. Just 2 different things. I probably wouldnt put sundried tomato hummus in a burrito. But then again....maybe I would.

Anonymous said...

I just tasted hummus for the first time, and I found your blog after googling "hummus" "refried beans," so yeah, I agree that it tastes just like that.

Brian Lake said...

Refried is a misnomer as there is no frying in the process of making refried beans, simply cooking and mashing them. The term comes from the translation of the Spanish name of the dish.

Anonymous said...

I am also not a fan of hummus, so I found a spicy white bean dip (same seasonings as hummus without the same bean) and that was better but then I tried using the same recipe with pintos and using Latin spices instead of Mediterranean spices guess what? I made a wonderful homemade bean dip. So yes in essence Hummus is just bean dip with a different bean and a different spice combo. I like Naan and I like pita, but at the end of the day it is still thin bread. Nothing new to see here, same old same old.

Anonymous said...

Drop the exclamations! We get it. You don't get some things. I don't get your !!!!!!

Elvis said...

I finally get why I cannot stand hummus. A friend said, "You will love this hummus. It's made from chickpeas." I tasted it. Hideous. All I could tolerate was one bite. I've got a strong stomach but even the sight of it made me turn away, not to mention the overpowering garlic taste.

At the time I did not know that chickpeas are the same as garbanzo beans. I have become enlightened tonight after reading the blog. I cannot stand garbanzo beans even though I love other beans. I think hummus is the Emperor's New Clothes of food.

It tasted like it had about one cup of mashed garlic in it. I don't understand why people are purposely making their breath smell that bad.