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Hummus: Hu Are You? Hu Hu, Hu Hu?

The classic dip is now a bastardized monstrosity with an identity crisis

Marjorie Ingall
May 13, 2015

I’m told it’s International Hummus Day. This gets me started on a rant. Admittedly, it does not take much.

People, why would you mess with hummus? When done right, it is the perfect food: light, airy, tangy, packed with flavor. And yet, moustache-twirling food-Instagramming Williamsburgians and orthorexic paleo anti-science fitness-obsessed nimrods alike want to mess with perfection. They arrogantly create lumpen Frankensteinian versions of God’s creation. They should be punished.

On the hipster side of things, Serious Eats advocates slab bacon hummus made with lardons, hot pickled cherry peppers, and bacon fat. Do I actually need to say that this is an abomination unto the Lord? Or as my Dad would have said, “a hillul hashem?” Look, my Dad loved bacon, but putting it in hummus is immoral. As a flavor, bacon takes over everything it touches—putting it in hummus is like dropping an elephant on a monarch butterfly. Plus, it is so ubiquitous in artisanal circles, it is a punchline.

Serious Eats also suggests we try Muffalummus, or “what hummus would be if it were invented in New Orleans.” WHICH IT WAS NOT. Olives, capers, pimentos, red wine vinegar and cubed salami do not belong in hummus. Go trim your sideburns and eat an actual muffaletta.

You know what else does not belong in hummus? Figs, pepitas and smoked paprika. Or tuna. In fact, for the tuna version, Serious Eats offers us a pro-tip: “Replace the hummus with egg yolks for excellent deviled eggs.” Exqueeze me? THIS IS NOT HUMMUS. If I replace the cheese in my grilled cheese sandwich with the squeezed-out contents of a Go-Gurt tube, I do not get to still call it a grilled cheese sandwich.

As for Pastrummus, now you’re just messing with me. Stirring hot chopped Katz’s treyf pastrami “dripping with hot pastrami fat” into hummus, along with brown mustard? Go home, Serious Eats, you’re drunk.

And Popsugar, do not speak to me of beet hummus. It looks like what’s left after a vampire explodes. As for your dried-unsweetened-coconut and curry hummus, well, I like vermouth and I like peanut M&Ms, but that doesn’t mean I should toss them in a blender together.

Then we have the sad paleo people making their sad paleo hummus. Did you know the Paleo diet does not include beans and legumes? I did not. Mainly because I go into a fugue state anytime someone starts talking about paleo. Here is a recipe in which zucchini stands in for chickpeas (which makes it zucchini dip, not hummus), along with a free lecture on why chickpeas are small, round, thin-skinned beige hitmen. Because our hunter-gatherer ancestors did not eat them! And they are full of carbs! Also, lectins!

I Googled lectins (never say I do not work hard for you) and found one bazillion web sites about paleo. Apparently lectins are a substance in the paleo world that prevents your body from absorbing nutrients, though, as a nutritionist points out, the digestive issues caused by lectins in beans and legumes are generally eradicated by cooking. And paleo people insist that eating infinite meat is great, which it isn’t, because anything can be dangerous if you eat a ton of it, and if you did not chew your meat you would die–well, I’m not sure about this parallel either–but the point is, shut up about lectins.

Where was I? Right. Here is a bonus recipe for paleo pecan hummus. It contains pecans, tahini, salt and pepper. That’s it. Damn, I was all outraged about lectins and now I’m sad again, and not just because I’m allergic to pecans. That is unhappy-looking food. That food looks like kitty litter.

Quick, let’s get happy again! Let’s leave the world of paleo and ponder dessert! Peanut-butter chocolate chip hummus is made with chickpeas, natural peanut butter, maple syrup, vanilla and chocolate chips. I would totally make this. I’d just leave out the chickpeas. (Actually, I’m pretty sure I have eaten this, on my couch, out of a mug, without the chickpeas, weeping, after a breakup.)

Look, I am not a hummus fundie. I can adapt to changing times. Even though kale is as much of a parody-of-itself foodstuff as bacon now, kale hummus sounds delicious. And God help me, I bookmarked a recipe for hemp seed hummus with chickpeas, harissa, raw hemp seeds, garlic, lemon juice, black pepper, whole coriander seeds and paprika. Yum! Also, a green goddess hummus with tahini, fresh parsley, tarragon, chives and garlic, with fresh squeezed lemon juice. I am salivating.

Nevertheless, we must be vigilant. We are headed down a dangerous road, a road paved with bagels. I remember the first time I had an Asiago bagel in San Francisco in 1995. It was shocking and felt so wrong, yet so right. It was divine. But from there it was a hop, skip and a jump to blueberry and jalapeno, and thence to Twinkie (“a shiny glaze coats the exterior of this limited edition flavor…the sticky, sweet exterior is crackly and gives way to a cake-like crumb”), and candy corn bagels. A little deviation from the path of the righteous is OK. But fellow hummus lovers, let’s not go whole hog.

Marjorie Ingall is a former columnist for Tablet, the author of Mamaleh Knows Best, and a frequent contributor to the New York Times Book Review.