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Hummus Goes Mainstream

A few years ago, I wrote an article on Ralph Nader, and I recall coming across this story from 1980 in the Christian Science Monitor, in which the reporter feels compelled to define "hummus":

Mark Green, who's just taken a leave of absence as head of Congress Watch to run for the New York legislature, has watched Nader, too, for years as a friend and disciple. He says, "Ralph reminds me of a camel -- he has the discipline to go for 10 or more hours without eating, but when he does it's in such volume that he seems to be storing it away for the future. He's happy when he's eating, and he'll eat whatever is in front of him, as long as it's not on the FDA list (of hazardous substances) . . . I really would be shocked to find him wolfing down a diet soda and a hot dog [both of which Nader has campaigned against]." Among the Nader favorites when he takes a camel break: chocolate cake, fresh salmon, veggies, the Lebanese dish called hummus, and of course, his mother's Arabian home cooking.

I thought of that when I read today's New York Times story about the spread of hummus consumption in the U.S. Of course, it's being Americanized with lots of accessory flavors:

“BACK home, they would shoot me in the head for doing this to hummus,” Majdi Wadi said as he waited to board a flight to Los Angeles, where he would meet with Costco executives to pitch his company’s roster of 14 flavored hummus varieties, including artichoke-garlic and spinach....
Holy Land opened in Minneapolis in 1987 as a storefront cafe that sold tubs of hummus as a sideline. Back then, Americans didn’t eat a lot of hummus. A staple of the counterculture in the 1960s and 1970s, hummus was long relegated to health food stores and “ethnic” aisles of markets. More recently, though, Americans seem to have decided that this low-fat, high-protein snack with a little olive oil stirred in is not so exotic. Industry giants have joined the market, for chips require dips. In 2008 Frito-Lay North America, a division of PepsiCo, became an owner of Sabra Dipping Company, producer of more than a dozen hummus varieties, including one with salsa.